Thursday, May 30, 2024

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Take My Hand
by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Read by Lauren J. Dagger
10 hours, 57 minutes
Published April 2022 by Penguin Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend intends to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women shape their destinies, to make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her along a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are children—just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling the family’s welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.

Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten.

Because history repeats what we don’t remember.

Inspired by true events and brimming with hope, Take My Hand is a stirring exploration of accountability and redemption.

My Thoughts: 
I first became aware of Dolen Perkins-Valdez in 2011, when I read and and enjoyed her debut, Wench. I was equally impressed with her sophomore effort, Balm, in 2015 and a short-story of hers that was included in the collection Suffragette City in 2020. So I was delighted to discovery recently that I had missed her third novel when it was released in 2022. 

Civil Townsend is the daughter of a doctor who would prefer that she become a doctor and join his practice. Instead, thinking that she will be more help to the people of her community, she becomes a nurse and begins working at a clinic, run by government, which purports to offer medical assistance to poor families. Civil's first community visit is to the Williams' home, to give Erica and India Depo-Provera shots. She's shocked to discover that the girls are only 11- and 13-years-old, neither of whom is sexually active. Why in the world would they need to have birth control shots? Civil becomes convinced that she needs to help these girls both medically and in their home life. She works to get the family better housing and helps the girls' father find a job. Moreover, she becomes emotionally attached to the family. When the woman who runs the clinic finds out all that Civil has done, she takes matters into her own hands and has the girls sterilized. Outraged, Civil and her parents determine to get justice for the girls, taking their case to court, as part of a class action suit. But the damage to the family, and to Civil, has already been done and none of them will ever be the same. 

Wench and Balm dealt with slavery and its aftermath. Here Perkins-Valdez has skipped forward a century to deal with another great injustice done to black women, the forced sterilization of women receiving government aid. I wasn't unaware that this had been done, but I knew very little about it. Here Perkins-Valdez has taken the real life story of the Relf sisters, who plight reached a Senate subcommittee led by Senator Teddy Kennedy, as the Williams girls do in this book. 

Once again Perkins-Valdez has taken a little known part of the history of black women and opened readers' eyes through a work of fiction that is both heartbreaking and uplifting. And, once again, I'm reading a work of historical fiction, based on reality, which seems to tie into events that readers are facing today. While this time it's not about forced birth control, we are once again facing politicians who seem to believe the government should be involved in women's reproductive rights. This book not only educated me but grabbed me emotionally, just as her previous books did. I can't wait to see what she's working on next. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

The Fraud
by Zadie Smith
Read by Zadie Smith
12 hours, 26 minutes
Published September 2023 by Penguin Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
It is 1873. Mrs. Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper-and cousin by marriage-of a once-famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years.

Mrs. Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr. Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems.

Andrew Bogle, meanwhile, grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. That the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realize. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story.

The “Tichborne Trial”-wherein a lower-class butcher from Australia claimed he was in fact the rightful heir of a sizable estate and title-captivates Mrs. Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs. Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr. Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task. . . .

My Thoughts: 
From an article in The Millions: 
"In 2009, first edition of Charles Dickens’s The Christmas Carol was sold at auction for $290,500. The book had been inscribed by Dickens himself to one “Mrs Touchet.” This Eliza Touchet was cousin by marriage to a novelist named William Harrison Ainsworth, and served as his housekeeper and as a witty hostess for literary parties at his home in Kensal Green, many of which Dickens attended. "

You know how much I love when an author, especially one of Smith's skills, manages to create a novel that ties real life people and events together in a way that really makes me think and that makes those people and events relevant to the world today. 

But that's not what drew me to this book. In fact, I had no idea what this book was about when I requested it from the library. I requested it because it was Smith's latest. This is the fourth book I've read by Smith and she always challenges me. Twice I've commented that I should have read the book in print but had listened to it. Didn't learn my lesson. While this one was easier to follow while listening than were the other books I've listened to by Smith, it does bounce around quite a bit and I think it would have been easier to track with it if I had looked at the book instead of listened to it. 

Still...I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I loved the history, I loved the references to the authors I'm familiar with and the story of the one I wasn't. I found the hoopla surrounding the trial fascinating and how timely it felt. Truly, a man who some people so passionately believed in while so many others could clearly see that he was a fraud? Can you get any more tied in to current events? Eliza was such an interesting character, as was her relationship with the Bogles. 

I've always found plenty to like about Smith's books but this one might be my favorite yet. 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Life: It Goes On - May 26

Happy Sunday! I'm back on track, although I'm also confused, what with having taken Friday off and having tomorrow off as well. I had a very productive Friday, what with having my brother and sister-in-law pass through on their way to her class reunion Friday night. It's amazing how much you can get done when company is coming!

We've had a couple more waves of severe weather move through this week - I'm so over it and we haven't even suffered any damage. On the plus side, the lawn looks great and I have hardly had to water the new plants at all. This week the temps are forecast to be only in the 70's so I'm hoping that we can get the flower pots moved out from shelter and set things up so we can enjoy patio time. Starting with a cookout tomorrow when Mini-him and Miss C come for dinner - it is the kickoff weekend to the summer, after all. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished Nita Prose's second Maid book, The Mystery Guest and started Patti Callahan Henry's The Secret Book of Flora Lea. 

Watched: Lots of Big Ten tournament baseball, culminating with our Cornhuskers winning the championship today. Also today, Purlie Victorious on PBS's Great Performances. 

Read: About to finally finish Jane Smiley's Lucky. If I hadn't gotten it from the publisher to review, I would probably have dnf'd it. 

Made: Lasagna cups and an orzo/sundried tomato/spinach dish, both of which feed us for a couple days each and both of which I'll make again. 

Enjoyed: Book club Tuesday. We had a good turnout, a good book discussion, and a good time catching up with each other. I love the way this group has grown, having time to really get to know each person as they join us. Every time I think I'm ready to give it up, I remember what good mental therapy it is for me every month. 


This Week I’m:  

Planning: This week is going to be about getting some things into storage, others to the Goodwill, and still other things off to the dump (as much as I hate to do that, somethings just have exhausted their usefulness). 

Thinking About: Painting know, the ones I keep saying I'm going to get to but that I haven't even started yet. I miss the days when I used to have a lot more energy! 

Feeling: Relaxed. A few days off to putz around and get things down that I've been wanting to get to has been just what I needed. 

Looking forward to: A quiet week which, hopefully, also means a productive week. 

Question of the week: What's the last book you finished that you loved?

Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon

The Frozen River
by Ariel Lawhon
448 pages; 15 hours
Read by Jane Oppenheimer
Published December 2023 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 

Publisher's Summary: Maine, 1789: When the Kennebec River freezes, entombing a man in the ice, Martha Ballard is summoned to examine the body and determine cause of death. As a midwife and healer, she is privy to much of what goes on behind closed doors in Hallowell. Her diary is a record of every birth and death, crime and debacle that unfolds in the close-knit community. Months earlier, Martha documented the details of an alleged rape committed by two of the town's most respected gentlemen-one of whom has now been found dead in the ice. But when a local physician undermines her conclusion, declaring the death to be an accident, Martha is forced to investigate the shocking murder on her own.

Over the course of one winter, as the trial nears, and whispers and prejudices mount, Martha doggedly pursues the truth. Her diary soon lands at the center of the scandal, implicating those she loves, and compelling Martha to decide where her own loyalties lie.

Clever, layered, and subversive, Ariel Lawhon's newest offering introduces an unsung heroine who refused to accept anything less than justice at a time when women were considered best seen and not heard. 

My Thoughts: 
This is my fourth novel by Lawhon, so clearly I'm a fan. Why? Because Lawhon always finds obscure real women who lived in interesting time to craft her novels around; I always learn something about an historical period, as seen through the lens of a woman's life. This novel is no exception. 

The real Martha Ballard lived from February 1735 through June 1812, married Ephraim Ballard in 1754, and had nine children, losing three of them to diphtheria. The family lived in Kennebec Valley, Maine where Martha worked as a midwife and healer and frequently testified in court. All of that would have been lost to time but for the fact that, at age 50, she began keeping a daily diary.

Lawhon took that and ran with it, pulling in many of the facts of Martha's life and the realities of the time and place, then filling that in with the details that Martha left out and a storyline that ties the late 18th century with the present day. 

What I Liked: 
  • Martha. Lawhon took what was known about the woman and created a warm, strong, fierce woman who loves her husband, is devoted to her children even as she sees their flaws, and battles men to provide the care the women in the area need and to see that justice is done. 
  • The way Lawhon paints such a clear picture of the setting of the novel. If I were making a movie adaptation of this book, it would be easy to create the set as it is so clear to me. 
  • The way Lawhon uses the story to also look at live for women in 2024. While women have absolutely come a long, long way since Martha lived, we still have a very long way to go. Were this to be set in present time, Rebecca would still struggle to be believed when she charges rape against the two men, Martha would still struggle, as a midwife, to be respected for the work she does. 
What Didn't Work As Well For Me: 
  • While I appreciate that Lawhon chose a believable court outcome, I wasn't thrilled with the way she saw justice (of a sort) served. It just all seemed a little too theatrical for me. 
  • I occasionally felt like Lawhon was being a little repetitive. For example, I didn't need to be told/shown so many times how hot for each other Martha and Ephraim still were after so many years or marriage. 
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Would I recommend the audiobook version. For sure? Would it make a good book club selection? Definitely. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Life: It Goes On - May 22

Happy Wednesday! How did we get to Wednesday already? We arrived home from around dinner time Sunday and I just couldn't work up the energy to do much, other than feed us, unpack, do laundry, and snuggle with my kitty girl. Monday was busy, last night was book club, so here we are. 

We headed to Columbia, Missouri on Friday morning, stopping in K.C. to drop off some patio furniture for Miss H (one day we'll have everything to her but we're still not finished yet). We haven't seen our friends in a year and it's The Big Guy's first time visiting them since they moved. We were busy all weekend but it was also so relaxing; they are both such great hosts. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished Dolen Perkins-Valdez's latest, Take My Hand

Watched: Since our friends live just a few blocks from our niece and her family, we got to go to our great-nephew's 3rd birthday party and watch him open presents and celebrate his way. 

Read: I'm struggling with Jane Smiley's Lucky, after finishing Amor Towle's Two For Tea

Made: The usual summer fare. 

Enjoyed: Saturday evening we and our friends met my brother and sister-in-law at a nearby winery that I love to visit, as it sits on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River valley. Would have been nice to sit there longer but the mosquitoes were eating us alive. So we all headed back to our friends' home to enjoy Shakespeare's pizza. 


This Week I’m:  

Planning: To get some yard work done, some work done cleaning out the basement, and to block out some devoted reading time.  

Thinking About: When our friends moved, they got rid of a lot of things and their house feels so light and clean. I'm certain that I could never pare down to their level, but I'd love to get back to the Cozy Minimalist group that I joined and get to working on the steps. 

Feeling: Ready to start working on painting projects. First up, Mini-him's dresser. 

Looking forward to: A four-day weekend. 

Question of the week: Do you get a long weekend for Memorial Day? If so, do you have special plans? 

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions (Kopp Sisters Series #3) by Amy Stewart

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions (Kopp Sisters Series #3) 
by Amy Stewart
Narrated by Christina Moore
10 hours
Published January 2017 by Mariner Books

Publisher's Summary:
Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp stands up to the “morality” laws of 1916, defending the independent young women in her prison against dubious charges when no one else will. From the patriotic Edna Heustis, who left home to work in a munitions factory, to the sixteen-year-old runaway Minnie Davis, these and other publicly shamed women who were packed off to a state-run reformatory find an unlikely ally in Constance, who uses her authority — and occasionally exceeds it — to investigate and defend them at all costs. But it's Constance's sister Fleurette who forces her to reckon with her own ideas of how a young woman should and shouldn't behave. Set against the backdrop of World War I, and drawn from true characters and events, this novel is timeless in its themes of justice and equality, and is sure to delight fans of historical and detective fiction alike.

My Thoughts: 
I'm failing, lately, at getting reviews written. To the extent that I struggle to remember books by the time I finally write the reviews or to summon up what my immediate feelings were about the book. It's been a few weeks since I listened to this one and it's fading, I'm sorry to say. Which may say as much about my feelings about the book as it does about the length of time it took me to write this review. 

I love the idea of Constance Kopp, a woman firmly in a man's world but not afraid to stand up to them. I love it even more that the character of Constance Kopp is based on real woman of the same name. In fact, many of the characters in this series are based on the real people who Constance was in contact with, including her sisters, Norma and Fleurette and Sheriff Robert Heath. Here she's also included Edna Heustis, May Ward, and Freeman Bernstein. Amy Stewart takes these people and some of the facts of their lives, and weaves stories around them, in no small part in order to paint a picture of what life was like for women of the time. 

In this book, that's the primary purpose of the book. There is no crime to solve, no real suspense. The cases Stewart writes about are based on things that actually happened to women of the time to focus on the constraints put on women at the turn of the last century - social, economic, and legal. Women were being arrested on morals charges and charged with such things as "waywardness." Women found guilty (and I imagine most were) who  were under the age of 21 were sent to reformatories where they were held until they where of age but that was not the end of the state's control; once arrested, the women were, more or less, forced into the kinds of lives the "moral" folk believed they should live. When Edna Heustis is arrested on just such a charge, Constance steps in and takes the investigation of the charges into her own hands, angering the prosecutor and setting herself up to take on more cases. 

One of the things I enjoy about these books is the humor they are filled with. While sister Norma becomes thornier (and Constance begins to despair the idea of spending the rest of her days with Norma), she becomes funnier for the readers. Her responses to the many marriage proposals Constance receives (thanks to the press she receives), are hilarious. When Fleurette runs off with May Ward's vaudeville troupe without telling her sisters, Norma fears the worst and sets of trying to solve this case on her own. Constance's main concern is that Fleurette will end up being one of the young girls arrested on morals charges, but she is also frustrated by Norma's actions at every turn. 

Not my favorite of the Kopp sisters books, but there is still, even with the humor and a feeling of lightness, a lot to think about here. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie Series #2) 
by Kate Atkinson
Narrated by Steven Crossley
14 hours, 8 minutes
Published October 2006 by Little, Brown and Company

Publisher's Summary: On a beautiful summer day, crowds lined up outside a theater witness a sudden act of extreme road rage: a tap on a fender triggers a nearly homicidal attack. Jackson Brodie, ex-cop, ex-private detective, new millionaire, is among the bystanders.

The event thrusts Jackson into the orbit of the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a washed-up comedian, a successful crime novelist, a mysterious Russian woman, and a female police detective. Each of them hiding a secret, each looking for love or money or redemption or escape, they all play a role in driving Jackson out of retirement and into the middle of several mysteries that intersect in one sinister scheme.

When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie Series #3)
by Kate Atkinson
Narrated by Steven Crossley
12 hours
Published January 2008 by Doubleday Books

Publisher's Summary: On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever...

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound...

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency...

My Thoughts: 
One Good Turn is loaded with intricately explored characters, not a single one of whom has much in the way of redeeming characteristics, not even our "hero," Jackson Brodie. It's been a several years since I read the first book in the series (Case Histories) but it was the intricacy of that novel that convinced me to read on in the series. 

That intricacy continues in this books with a seemingly random group of people, connected by one incident, who each have their own stories to tell. A set of Russian dolls, matryoshka dolls, is repeatedly referenced in the book, not so subtly hinting at readers that there are mysteries within mysteries in this novel. They don't, in the end, stack up quite so neatly but there are some deaths I cheered (he deserved it!), some guys that got away, and Jackson manages to survive another situation he didn't so much solve as go along on the ride for. 

I didn't like this one as much, without a single character to truly care about and without enjoying the ending as much. Nevertheless, I immediately launched into the next book in the series. 

When Will There Be Good News? repeats the formula (although I hesitate to use that word as there is nothing really formulaic about the books in the series) of having a large cast and a number of different stories going on at the same time. All of this while we watch Jackson struggle to survive his own life. 

Since the last book, Jackson has rashly married a woman he only knew for a couple of months after finding out that the detective, Louise, he met in the last novel and befriended was getting married. The two of them  both know they would have preferred being with each other and that their marriages were a bad idea and we watch both of the marriages fail. Which doesn't mean that they'll end up together because, really, they shouldn't. 

What worked better for me in this one were characters to care about. Reggie's a girl who has been done hard by life but managing to find a path in life on her own, thanks, in part, to Joanna Hunter who hires her as a nanny. When the train Jackson is riding on crashes just behind the house Reggie is staying at, Reggie saves Jackson's life and the two of them become entwined in trying to help both Reggie and to solve the disappearance of Joanna. Louise also becomes involved in this case, even as she worries about the survivors of a mass killing she worked on some years ago. 

A much more, for me, satisfying endings, even though Jackson had more than one rude awakening to deal with at the end of the book. 

I very much enjoyed Steven Crossley's reading of these books and was looking forward to picking up the fourth book in the series while I wait for one of the books on my wait list to become available. Unfortunately, my library doesn't carry the fourth book in audio. Is it in print on my bookshelves? Maybe. I'll have to go look. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Life: It Goes On - May 12

Happy Sunday and happy Mother's Day to all of the moms, however that looks for you. I know this is a hard day for a lot of people - those who have lost their moms, those who have lost children, and those who are struggling to become moms - my heart goes out to you. Even though this is the fourth Mother's Day since my mom died, it's still strange not to be heading into Lincoln to celebrate her. I love the idea of taking Mother's Day to do absolutely nothing...anyone have the ability to actually do that? I'm trying to find pockets of time to do that or to focus on the kinds of things that need to be done that I actually enjoy doing (organizing, working outside). Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished two of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books - One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News?

 We had not understood that the Northern Lights would be so visible near us on Friday night so missed the best chance to watch them. But last night we drove up east of north of us a ways to try to catch them. The strange thing? This picture is what my phone captured but it's not what I could see with my naked eye, which was more a gradation of lighter skies that moved a bit. Only with the phone on night mode were the colors visible. 

Read: Two For Tea by Amor Towles. 

Made: Mostly we ate light - pasta, salads - but one night The Big Guy made mashed potato with ham soup that we feasted on a couple of nights, even if it was warm enough to eat on the patio. 

Enjoyed: Several trips to the nursery and a lot of time working in my yard in the evenings and yesterday. AND I finally got the new cushions for the patio furniture I've been wanting. I've finally acknowledged that not all of the patio furniture we have really fits on our patio so we're shipping some off to Miss H for her patio and ditching three big pots. How is it that my patio still has so much stuff on it? 


This Week I’m:  

Planning: On moving some things out of the basement to the storage unit this week so that we can start organizing the things that need to stay down there. It makes Monica's closet look neat and tidy right now. 

Thinking About: Getting back to weekly menu planning so we can control our calories, eat food we enjoy, and not get stuck in a rut. 

Feeling: Worried. Tuesday evening our cat became lethargic and all but stopped eating. Took her to the vet on Wednesday; and $650 later, we still don't know what's made her sick. She's still hardly eating but has a little more energy. We are giving her all of the love and trying to find foods that will appeal to her and now we just wait to see if she'll recover. 

Looking forward to: I've hired a company to come to my house to detail the inside of my car tomorrow. I'm so happy not to have to do it myself and it is desperately in need of the attention. 

Question of the week: Were you in the part of the country that had a view of the northern lights? If so, did you get a chance to get out to see them? 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell

The Marriage Portrait
by Maggie O'Farrell
Read by Genevieve Gaunt 
13 hours, 21 minutes
Published September 2022 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf. 

Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now enter an unfamiliar court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble? 

As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.

My Thoughts: 
This is one of those books that you hear about and you immediately know that you want to read (especially if you read and really enjoyed O'Farrell's Hamlet). But then you don't get around to it for one reason or another, mostly because there are just so many books to get to every year. But I pick the books for my book club every year and I pick them for several reasons, not the least of which is that they might be a book I've been wanting to read and I can work it into that year's theme. And so I came to The Marriage Plot

  • I'm sure this is an excellent read in print, but I can't recommend the audiobook enough. Genevieve Gaunt it terrific and it's so helpful to hear how things should be pronounced, the names in particular.
  • O'Farrell has taken the portrait of a real woman, about whom very little is known beyond who her family was and who she married, and crafted a wonderful story around it. In the author's notes, O'Farrell explains how she took details about the family's life and wove them into the story in different ways. 
  • The book jumps from a forward moving narrative of Lucrezia's life, from her birth until her arrival in the court of Ferrara, and a later point in time when Lucrezia has been moved by Alfonso to a remote fortress where she is certain he is going to kill her. This back and forth creates something of a mystery - is the man who Lucrezia became enamored of as a young girl when Alfonso was betrothed to her sister really the monster she now believes him to be or is this very young woman misreading this man who is doing nothing more than trying to hold his kingdom together. 
  • Which brings me to this: you all know how bad I am at predicting what's going to happen in a mystery; so it will come as no surprise to find that I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how Lucrezia was going to get out of trouble, if indeed Alfonso was the monster she believed him to be. So anything was going to come as something of a surprise to me. But what actually happened completely blindsided me. 
  • As a child whose mother turned her early upbringing over to a cook because she had no idea how to deal with her and whose nurse turned out to be the only person who ever really understood her, it's not surprising that Lucrezia's story paints a stark contrast between the rich and those who care for them. News flash (not really): the rich don't come out looking too good in comparison to those who care for them. 
  •  The Marriage Portrait is a wonderful story that kept my attention throughout and had me listening at times when I normally don't listen to audiobooks. But what really wow'd me about this book was O'Farrell's ability to draw the reader in with all of the senses. You could smell flowers, taste the food, feel the richness of the fabrics, hear the music that Alfonso so loved, see exactly what Lucretia's magnificent wedding dress looked like. I couldn't help but think how much Gretchen Rubin, author of Life In Five Senses, would enjoy it. 
This one's going on the top books of the year list. It was a hit with the book club and I highly recommend it. 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Life: It Goes On

Happy Sunday! It's turned out to be a beautiful day here after a cloudy start (well, I'm assuming it was cloudy in Omaha this morning since it was cloudy in KC, which is where we started the day). 

Thursday I hit up a nursery for the first time this year and today I got all of the flowers into the ground this afternoon. Most of what I bought on Thursday was tomato plants and herbs so, of course, I'm headed off to the store shortly to get more flowering plants because a girl can never have too many flowering plants and too much color! 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon.

Watched: Freaky Friday (the Jamie Lee Curtis/Lindsey Lohan version) with Miss H. She convinced 

The Big Guy that she had only ever seen it once and then the two of us proceeded to recite lines. 

Read: Tea For Two by Amor Towles. 

Made: Chicken parmesan and absolutely nothing else all week. I ate out 3 nights and ate popcorn one evening while I was getting my hair done. Maybe this week? 

Enjoyed: An excellent week! Tuesday a friend and I went to happy hour; Friday we grabbed our guys and headed off to a different place for dinner and a couple of bottles of wine. Also, a quick trip to KC to take a mattress to Miss H. While we were there, we ate dinner with two of her friends and their dad at a new-to-us taco place, Mission Taco Joint in South Plaza. We'll definitely be going back there. 


This Week I’m:  

Planning: My calendar looks much less busy this week so I'm hoping to finish up garden shopping and get things planted, grab some new cushions for the patio, take at least a couple of loads of things to Goodwill and another couple of loads to storage for Mini-him, and finish setting up my dad's place so we can just hang out when we visit there and not have work to do any more. 

Thinking About: What needs to be done to finish up the major project we started in the back yard last year. 

Feeling: Happy - just going to the greenhouse gave me such a dopamine rush and getting my hands in the dirt at long last felt so good. 

Looking forward to: Last week was filled with fun things but I'm looking forward to a quiet week this week so I can get things caught up a bit here. 

Question of the week: We're trying to get some weight off and I'm looking for your best suggestions for meals that taste delicious but are lower in calories. What ya got for me?