Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Lowcountry Boondoggle


Lowcountry Boondoggle by Susan Boyer is the 9th book of the Liz Talbot series.  I must confess that I have not read the entire series.  I think I’ve read about half of them.  So if you are nervous about picking up a random one in the series, fear not, you can jump right in!


Liz and her husband Nate are private investigators who usually end up solving the cases for her childhood friend Sonny Ravenel, who is a detective in Charleston, SC.   This time they are helping out Darius Baker a recently retired reality tv star, and finding out who killed the eccentric professor, Murray Hamilton.  Murray is the uncle of Tyler Duval, who is business partners with Darius’s son Brantley.  A little confused by the name dropping? I was too at the beginning! Bit of a slow start but it quickly picked up.

Murray is found dead in his house and after an autopsy, they learn he has been poisoned.  Liz and Nate try to find out who would kill Murray.  Is it is nephew wanting an early inheritance? An angry student? A jealous lover? Quite the host of characters are interviewed and assessed by Liz and Nate with the help of Liz’s dead best friend Colleen.  Colleen always hads a bit of comedy into each story.

The book is a very quick read and a delightful trip into the Lowcountry.  Be prepared to get hungry as the delicious food and drinks are described and wistful for old historic houses of Charleston.

If you like Gretchen Archer, Janet Evanovich or Charlaine Harris be sure to throw in a Susan Boyer book in your beach bag on your next trip!

Description: Private investigators Liz Talbot and Nate Andrews thought they’d put Darius Baker’s troubles to rest—then his recently discovered son ropes him into a hemp farm investment with his college buddies. When a beloved Charleston professor—and potential investor—is murdered, Liz and Nate discover Darius keeps the PIs on speed dial.

A shocking number of people had reasons to want the genteel, bowtie wearing, tea-drinking professor dead. Was it one of his many girlfriends or a disgruntled student? Or perhaps Murray was killed because his failure to invest meant the hemp farm trio’s dreams were going up in smoke?
Though Liz’s long-dead best friend, Colleen, warns her the stakes are far higher than Liz imagines, she is hellbent on finding the no-good killer among the bevy of suspects. But will the price of justice be more than Liz can bear?

What is your favorite seafood dish? Do you like drinking tea? Do you have any daily rituals?

I received this book for review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own!

Friday, July 17, 2020

TGIF!

I hate having to make impossible decisions.  Especially when I parent with a person who doesn't make decisions until they know all the facts.  Quite frankly, that's not an option in the middle of pandemic when the information is changing rapidly.  We literally have to over talk the situation, which I do excel in.  But he however does not.  So that's fun.  Also fun is trying to figure out how best to explain that I do not hate my child if/when I have to make the stupid decision to school her at home this year instead of in school where I know she wants to be.  But school isn't what she knows school to be currently and I WANT HER TO BE THERE TOO.  Like how it was BEFORE.  Not how it is now.  It is so not in the best health interest of staff or students to put them into this impossible situation right now.  If it wasn't safe in March, it sure isn't safe now when my county is actually climbing in numbers.  Also, this is something where we can't make decisions on a month ahead unless it is just prepare to be online and if we can be in person, great.  Because, quite frankly putting my child in a building right now UNMASKED WITH 23 OTHERS SOUNDS LIKE IT IS AGAINST EVERY HEALTH ADVISORY OUT THERE.  So this week has been fun. :)

My favorite pictures from the week:









The high of my week was long walks by myself.

The low of my week was trying to make the impossible school decision.

Meal plan for the week was 

Monday -  Chicken Sandwiches, green beans from the garden
Wednesday -  Cheesy Chicken Burrito Skillet, leftover zucchini bake
Thursday -  leftover cheesy chicken burrito skillet, cucumbers/dip, cherries, cottage cheese
Friday - Homemade patty melt with grilled zucchini

The best money I spent was on not sure

What I’m listening to Small Town Murder

What I’m watching  the last season of Criminal Minds

What I’m reading: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

My plans for the weekend include going to the beach in Cheboygan and spending the night in St. Ignace.

What are you watching/reading/listening to?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

All the Light We Cannot See


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr has been on my TBR list for a long time.  It’s been on my shelf for about 3 years and every time I’d think about it I’d be like umm 500 plus pages??? And I try not to read reviews of hyped up books because then I tend to stay away for awhile.  But a friend who always shares WWII reqs with me, did tell me that it could have been about 100 pages or so shorter and still good and I can concur.  That being said, I did a buddy read with my friend Erin and we cranked this sucker out.  It helped having the Instagram accountability because I may have just let it sit for a bit when parts got ‘nature-y.’  I don’t believe it is any secret I am not a fan of reading beautiful descriptions of nature.  I just can’t.  Skim skim skim is my nature motto.



This book skips around in time period so if you do let it sit a bit it’s kind of hard to figure out the timing.  I did start to ignore some of the times except for when it was on the time period of the August bombing of Saint-Malo.  This isn’t too spoilerish since it’s mentioned within the first 30ish pages.

It goes between two narrators, Werner a young German orphan and Marie-Laure a young French girl.  Both of them are very smart, interested in science, and have traumatic incidents in their upbringing.  Werner lives in an orphanage with his sister Jutta, and even though he is brilliant looks to be heading into the mines at age 15.  The Nazi’s are on the rise at this time in Germany and using the connection of a local Nazi who he helped with a broken radio, Werner earns a spot in a school.  This school teaches him about race superiority, how to fight, and makes him question his morals.  One of the quotes from this part of the book stood out to me from a classmate he meets there, “Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”

Marie-Laure grows up with only her father and becomes blind at a very young age.  She accompanies her father to work at a museum daily and eventually learns how to read braille and solve puzzles her father puts towards her.  The Germans eventually bomb Paris and they must flee and end up at her great-uncles house in Saint Malo.  He survived WWI but lost his brother.  He does not go outside. 
The book constantly goes between the two at different points in the war.  I’d recommend it if you like beautifully written stories.  It is long.  However, this story sticks with you and I was left thinking of the characters many days after finishing the book.

Have you read All the Light We Cannot See? What are some large books that you’ve put off reading? What are some long books you’d recommend?

Friday, July 10, 2020

TGIF!!

My husband had to go back to the office this week, but did work from home on Wednesday so this first week back to summer kinda normal, was interesting.  I am so sad that we can't do most of what we'd do in a normal summer to break up the day and be exciting.  But we are making do.  I have the 9 year old signed up for summer enrichment through her school for the month of July so there is SOMETHING to do.  We are trying to do daily walks.  This week she had an eye appointment and I had a dentist appointment so those things broke up the days.

My favorite pictures from the week:





this was actually enjoyed on the 5th of July but I went for a red/white/blue theme for a snack/lunch


Our 'Blue America' drinks we made up for the 4th in the backyard


I made this bean dip for our 4th in the backyard


I made this pudding pie for our 4th in our backyard

The high of my week was the 9 month old said mama! And gave me snuggles.  It was adorable.  When I texted my husband he said .. "now let me go pull on the curtains.." which is so true.  Children give love and then go and do insanely infuriating things. :)

The low of my week was seeing ridiculous photos of how people spent 4th of July with a crap ton of people not social distancing and numbers going up and wondering how the heck school can resume.

Meal plan for the week was 

Monday -  Brisket Nachos
Tuesday -  Brisket Tacos
Wednesday -  beef stir fry, made with veggies from our garden!
Thursday -  Flatbread Pizza, one pepperoni/onion/ yellow peppers and one Pesto/Mozzarella,Tomato
Friday - a local restaurant take out

The best money I spent was on not sure

What I’m listening to Small Town Murder

What I’m watching  the last season of Criminal Minds

What I’m reading: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr as a buddy read with my friend Erin

My plans for the weekend include finishing this book! Getting my hair cut for the first time since November and getting it colored for the first time since February!

What are you watching/reading/listening to?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Currently July

Reading:  All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr,  It's been hard to get captivated by it.



Loving:  that first hot cup of coffee in the morning.  OMG.  It makes you feel like you can do anything.  So magical.  Also, one of Adeline's first words is book.  She says boo boo boo and grabs books and will look at them.  She will even bring them to you.  She also loves music and 'sings' back.  

Also, more Adeline words are hi, Isla, mama, and the occasional moo.  She's becoming a little parrot.

And our library reopened for curbside after having to shut down due to flood damage!




Feeling: all the emotions.  It's been a year.  I can't process all of the things I'm feeling for all of the events that have taken place.  I worry about my oldest's mental health.  I can see she has anxiety.  I know not seeing her people makes her struggle.  It's hard because now that school is 'done' it's summer and we can't do a lot of the fun summer stuff we usually do.  And I know having a baby sister making even more of the stuff a no is hard.  Plus, our library flooded and it had been closed and one of our favorite things is going to the library multiple times a week.  At least we have curbside! And we have our own free little library at our house now.  It's hard because for 2 months we thought, 'okay, this summer will suck but we will be able to go out on the lake and visit the beach.'  Clearly, there are no lakes.  And a freaking pandemic.  And people not doing their due diligence when we have for months now and we STILL CAN'T DO THINGS BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES.

Anticipating: in two weeks we are driving north for the day to visit a beach on Lake Huron that's 2 and a half hours away and pretty secluded.  

Grateful: my family is healthy and safe.  





Working: trying to sell baby stuff and clear out the house.  I would have loved to have a garage sale this year because I have so many items that need to go!

Listening: podcasts. Small Town Murder is my current go to listen.

Watching: We just got caught up on the last SWAT, so we should be catching up on Criminal Minds next.  Also still watching a ton of Hallmark movies!

Wishing: for a scientific breakthrough so we can get this virus under control.  Also, for idiots to stop idioting.  

What are you reading> What are you anticipating?

Monday, July 6, 2020

What I Read in June

I did a much better job of focusing and powering through books in June! I am back on track with 7 books finished.  We shall overlook that a bunch were middle grade. :) They were good! I am currently buddy reading All the Light We Cannot See and I may have to read about 324234 books at once to make my way through it.  It's one of those books that I WANT to read but it's hard to get into.  I also got Lowcountry Boondoogle for a review copy and I WANT TO READ IT NOW!!!! So we shall see.



Once a Midwife by Patricia Harman is the third book in a series.  You could read these as stand alone books but they have continuing characters and reading all of them help you get the story.  The timeline in this book is right as US is entering WWII.  Patience's husband Daniel is very anti-war after having served in the first world war.  The country and the town are changing and it has great historical aspects in this good fiction series!

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner was soo good! I hadn't read a book of hers in quite a few years and I'll be honest I wasn't excited about it when my book club picked it.  IT IS SO GOOD.  So good I spent 4 hours one night hurrying up to finish it! It's about two sisters who grow up in suburban Detroit.  It covers their life from the 1950s until present.  It's crazy how many political and social changes has happened in that time frame.  Neither girls adulthood looks like they thought it would.  They both persevered through traumatic situations and got what they wanted, but it took awhile.  Highly recommend!



Celebrate Your Body is a body positive book that talks about the changes that happen during puberty.  I got it for the 9 year old last summer and just read it for myself.  It's written in a matter of fact manner and very well done.

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall is a book I got from the library maaaaaany months ago because I had gone through goodreads and clicked on 'books you may like if you liked CeeCee Honeycutt."  This did not disappoint.  I also recommend it!  Starla Claudelle lives with her grandma in small town Mississippi in the 1960s.  Her dad works on an oil rig and her mom moved to Nashville to follow her dreams to be a singer.  Her grandma is not kind to her.  Starla runs away on the 4th of July and meets a Black woman who also has some big secrets.  Together they may a perilous journey to Nashville to see her mom.  Lots of strong female characters. 



Boxcar Children the Beginning was eh.  I mean it may have been better when I was a kid, but this could have been done better.

Harbor Me by Jaqueline Woodson was really good.  Got rave reviews from the 9 year old too! A group of students meet together in a classroom every Friday and talk about whatever they want.  These kids have a lot of worries, immigration, parents in prison, ADHD, racism and they think they are alone.  Until they start opening up and find hope and help from their fellow classmates.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed was really good too.  The 9 year old also gave this one 5 stars.  A smart young girl in Pakistan is at the market one day when she insults the wrong person.  She goes from eldest daughter in the family to a servant.  She is strong, speaks her mind and never gives up.  For my 9 year old who reads everything on Malala Yousafzai this was a great fictional book.



My library opens back up for curbside today and we have been requesting books like crazy.  Kind of excited to see what we pick up today, and also thinking I need to be reading like a crazy fool to get ahead of my reading again!

What was your favorite book read in June?




Friday, June 5, 2020

What I Read in May

Well, since I last posted, the crazy that is 2020 got even crazier.  I grew up on a lake, as did my husband.  The lakes were connected by a dam.  It's technically a river that was dammed up about 100 years ago.  We got a lot of rain.  One dam broke.  Now there are no lakes, my hometown is destroyed, houses destroyed, property destroyed and this happened to loved ones and strangers in 3 counties.  This is a short simple way of saying, our stressful situation was made more stressful, and my in-laws home is down to the studs.  My husband and his siblings, plus many helpers spent a about 5 days cleaning and demoing out 42 years of living.  Many of my child's school friends had flood damage.  The ball fields I grew up playing on are destroyed.  My favorite breakfast place - destroyed.  Many small businesses - destroyed. 

Yeah.  It's been a few weeks.  I actually have not read a book since the day before this happened.  Probably the longest I've ever gone without reading.  I have a book sitting by my chair ready to go for weeks now, but I start the first page and my mind goes.  It's been a time.  It's hard too, because the feelings I have for my hometown are complicated, like most of us probably feel towards our own home towns.  I never felt like I belonged.  I always felt like an outsider and I don't share the same viewpoints as many.  I still feel deeply about its destruction.  I may have made fun of the lake I grew up on, but man did it give me lots of memories. 

Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo that being said, I read 2 books in all of May..


The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray was really good! It was a page-turner and set in Michigan! It does do some jumping in time so I feel like if you read it in a couple sittings it's better than walking away.  I devoured it in two days.  It has a lot going on and my only complaint is that the eating disorder part wasn't really elaborated on more towards the end.  I also liked that when it ended, you still had some questions, not so much about the plot, but where the family would go next. 

Description: The Mothers meets An American Marriage in this dazzling debut novel about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and how the relationships that sustain you can also be the ones that consume you.

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.

November Road by Lou Berney is a crime novel that takes a look at the Kennedy assassination.  A what if the New Orleans mob was behind it look.  The main character Frank, realizes that he knows too much and is about to be considered dispensable so he high tails it across America trying to save himself.  On the road he meets a woman and her daughters who are running from her alcoholic husband.  He uses them as cover as they move West to their new starts.  I wasn't as impressed with this one, it's graphic and really I finished it to find out how it ended.  Slightly disappointing, and I like stories about the Kennedy's and the Kennedy assassinations.  

What were some highlights of your May reading?

Friday, May 15, 2020

TGIF!

I cannot believe that it is already the middle of May. I have been working on the same book for like ever.  I am having trouble reading.  But my Words with Friends game is strong! We started Schitts Creek, and I am walking almost daily.  So I mean good things? Also, our school year is getting a week cut off, so that's nice and yet what the eff am I going to do with the extra time in our day???? Mom school starting soon.  Hopefully, we will be able to leave our house by then and I can at least take us on outdoor adventures places, or even to my parents house.

My favorite pictures from the week:





The high of my week was dropping off moving boxes to some friends and a front porch chat.

The low of my week was just seeing how not caring of others so many people are.  And selfishly irritated at how life is changed.

Meal plan for the week was 

Monday -  Lasagna, garlic bread, blackberries, and cottage cheese
Tuesday -  leftover lasagna, sweet corn, and blackberries
Wednesday -  Buffalo chicken salads, baked potatoes, and blackberries
Thursday -  Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs, green beans, stove top stuffing
Friday - Take out Pizza

The best money I spent was on a Harry Potter robe for Isla's bday.  I had been going to gift her 2 weeks of summer camp and my parents had gotten her a week of it, but I'm fairly certain they will all be cancelled so I decided I had better get her something to open, and well eff it, we are in a pandemic, the kid can have a ridiculous amount of bday presents for once!

What I’m listening to My Favorite Murder

What I’m watching The Good Witch movies on Hallmark and Schitt's Creek

What I’m reading: November Road by Lou Berney

My plans for the weekend include finishing the darn book.

What are you watching/reading/listening to?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

April Reads!

I've definitely realized that at this point in time there are books I am flying through and then books that seem to take 10 years.  There is no in between! With that said, I finished 5 books in April.


Chocolate Chip Murder Mystery by Joanne Fluke was mostly read in March, but I finished it up in April.  It is the first in a series about Hannah Swenson who owns a bakery in a small Minnesota town.  I found this series because of the mystery series on Hallmark.  Because apparently having a baby and winter and a pandemic have me discovery the world of the past 20 years of Hallmark movies and shows I never paid attention too! I liked that this book had recipes included, and we totally made the Chocolate Chip Crunch? I think that is shared and it was a hit here.  We changed up the type of cereal used because of what we had on hand but they were delicious! If you are looking for a cute series, I'd say check it out!



Some of Adeline's reads



Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes is sooo good! I sporadically listen to NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast,which she is on.  I kept hearing her voice in my head as the lead character, Evvie.  It has such a quick witted dialogue and is a very fast read.  Highly recommend it if you need something to quickly engage in.  It's not an extremely happy book, Evvie, rarely leaves her house and many people think she is too grief ridden to 'move on.'  She meets someone she tries to 'fix' and along the way they both come to terms with the hand life has dealt them.  Both are hurt and both need to restart their lives and live for themselves.  LOVED the dialogue.





Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven was suggested to me by Goodreads after I finished my reread of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  It is set in the 1930s North Carolina mountains.  Velva Jean is the youngest in a large brood of children that live atop Fair Mountain,which is named after a relative who first settled in the area in the1700s.  The book follows Velva Jean from a very young girl to an 'adult' of 19.  She is very close to her brother Johnny Clay who joins in her a lot of her adventures.  His life dream is to be rich from panning gold and her life long dream is to sing on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.  I would recommend this book but it is NOTHING like Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  Yes, it is set in the South but that is about it.  It reminded me of Dolly Parton growing up dirt poor and having a beautiful voice in a holler far away from 'civilization.'

Book Scavenger is a middle grade novel that is perfect for kids/adults interested in puzzles and books.  It had a Willy Wonka feel to it, and it was a quick read.  I think any of the 'issues' I had with the book were some simplicity plot lines, that wouldn't bother me if I was in the intended 9-12 year old age range it is meant for! It was one of of the library books my daughter got that I decided to read.  The main character is Emily, and her family is on a quest to live in 50 states.  She love solving puzzles and is in an online community called Book Scavenger where users hide books and leave clues for other people to find them.  They earn points and level up by finding and hiding books.  Her family relocates to San Francsico the home of the creator of Book Scavenger and Emily is excited.  She gets immersed in a very unique puzzle , learns how to be a friend, and it is a neat book with a neat premise!



Educated by Tara Westover was our book club pick for April.  It was a fascinating peak into a life that I can hardly imagine living, let alone surviving.  I had put this book off partly because it was super hyped and then I tend to hate those books.  I have to say I was not impressed.  A friend and I both agreed it was just okay, and if we hadn't already recently read and loved Where the Crawdads Sing and The Great Alone, we would maybe have liked it more.  I just felt like I had already read this story before.  Which it is similar to The Great Castle, if you've read that.  And I think I've read a few books about religious extremists that while disgusting isn't as captivating the millionth time I hear about oppressed and abused women. 



What did you read in April? What was a book you'd recommend? Have you read Educated? What were your thoughts?

Friday, May 1, 2020

TGIF!!!

So first of all, ANDERSON COOPER IS A DAD and I am a puddle of awwwwwwwwwwww over it.  He has such a good soul.  This week was better than last.  I have been out for a walk every day this week and the warmer temps made a huge difference.  We also have had only a few meltdowns.  But it's Friday and all the school things that haven't been finished need to be finished today, so the day is young!! :) Our first friend has gotten Covid-19, (he is doing well), and our friends grandma passed away from suspected Covid-19. :( All the people in my state that think it's cool and okay to take their weapons and intimidate our legislators and governor in our state capital building can all suck a big fat toe.  Selfish ignorant fools.

My favorite pictures from the week:






The high of my week was Zoom book club meeting and watching Adeline go to town on some avocado!

The low of my week was just thinking of how crappy this summer may end up being after putting so many hopes on it after last year being pregnant and miserable.

Meal plan for the week was 

Tuesday -  Grilled chicken sandwiches, strawberries, and roasted broccoli
Wednesday -  Crock Pot Pork Chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, strawberries, and applesauce
Thursday - Pulled Pork Tacos, strawberries, veggies and homemade dill dip, strawberries, guacamole, and chips
Friday - Smoked Pulled Pork Nachos again!

The best money I spent was on a baby swing for our backyard.  We never had one with Isla because we live next door to a park, but I don't foresee us going there at all this summer so we needed one for our backyard.

What I’m listening to My Favorite Murder

What I’m watching random Hallmark movies and just started Workin' Moms

What I’m reading: November Road by Lou Berney

My plans for the weekend include being outside.. working on raking the yard

What are you watching/reading/listening to?