It’s the last Friday of the month–time again for some good news to take you into May with a smile.
If you have been reading my posts for #WATWB, you know my favorite stories contain good news for the environment and hence, for all of us. The story I have chosen for this month is about a young girl who’s making a difference in the world’s oceans. She’s an inspiration and I hope more people feel compelled to do their part to reduce plastic use and waste when they see what she’s done.
P.S. If you’re interested in reading more about finding alternatives to plastic, I encourage you to read this article, about how giving up straws makes it easier for us to give up other forms of plastic, and this article, about how easy it is to find alternatives to the plastics we use around the house every day.
Welcome to the second edition of the Last Tuesday Book Club. Last month we read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and there were some interesting points made during the discussion. My plan is to read a book every month and to discuss it on the last Tuesday blog post of the month. I hope more people join us in the coming months!
This month’s selection for our Last Tuesday Book Club was Stolen Memories by Mary Miley. Mary is also the author of the Roaring Twenties mysteries, as well as a large number of non-fiction books. Stolen Memories is a work of Gothic fiction and I found it to be an exciting page-turner. Here’s a synopsis:
It’s 1928. A young English woman in Paris is attacked and thrown into the Seine, where she is left for dead. Thanks to the quick thinking of two sailors nearby, she is rescued and taken to a hospital. When she awakens, she is alarmed to discover that she has lost her memory. She doesn’t remember marrying the man standing over her with angry, flashing eyes, and she doesn’t remember why she was in Paris. The man is demanding that she reveal to him where she has hidden a number of paintings, and she has no idea what he’s talking about. As the woman slowly regains some of her disjointed memories, she is disturbed to find that she still doesn’t remember anything about her marriage, her home, the paintings, or her family.
I loved the book. Gothic fiction is my favorite genre to read and this did not disappoint. There is a French chateau, a woman who has lost her memory, a mysterious man of wealth and a dubious past, missing artwork, and an attempted murder. It has all the ingredients of a dark mystery.
There are a number of discussion questions at the end of the book, and I have opted to choose a few of them and supplement them with my own questions. Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below and ask any questions you may have.
When does Eva/Claire begin to question her identity? Why does she initially explain away her doubts?
Dr. Thomas J. Barnardo was a real person who died in the 1950s. Was he correct, that heredity counted for very little and environment was everything? Would Eva have become Claire and Claire, Eva, if they had been adopted by the other’s parents?
Clearly, both heredity and environment (nature and nurture) play a role in every person’s development, but how would you rank the importance of each?
Did you recognize any of the other characters in the book, besides Dr. Barnardo, as being “real people?”
Why do you suppose Alex wanted the paintings back? Was it pride, financial need/want, determination, or something else? Was it a combination of things?
What did you think about Lianne’s role in bringing Eva/Claire to Luca? Do you think it was romantic imagination on Lianne’s part, or did she suspect that Luca meant Eva/Claire harm?
How do you feel about Alex’s sister Danielle? Do you like her? Dislike her? What do you think about her motives in visiting the chateau?
Why do you suppose Madame Denon and Cousin Pauline were in the book?
I reviewed Stolen Memories, giving it 5 stars. I hope you enjoyed reading and discussing the book. If you have any suggestions for a June book club selection, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. In the meantime, the selection for May is What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman. I’ve read The Plum Tree by Ms. Wiseman and she is an incredibly skilled writer.
Back in May of 2017, I published an interview with Sally Cronin. You can read it here if you’d like to refresh your memory. In that interview she talked about her new book, What’s in a Name?
I read the book recently (I need to get on Amazon and post my review) and I’d like to share my thoughts with you. And since this post it entitled “Book Recommendation,” I’m sure you have a pretty good idea of my thoughts.
What’s in a Name? is a collection of short stories, all written by Sally. She had the genius idea of writing two stories for each letter of the alphabet: the name of the story would be the first name of the male or female main character. Hence, Sally has penned the stories “Anne” and “Alexander,” “Grace” and “George,” and “Jane” and “Jack.” I’m sure you get the picture.
Volume I of What’s in a Name? contains stories for letters A through J. Volume II, it follows, continues with the rest of the alphabet. I haven’t read Volume II yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
The stories are full of love, laughter, life, and tears. Most of them end in a twist the reader doesn’t see coming. You’ll need tissues to read some of these stories, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a collection you’ll want to gift to someone you love. Sally has a knack for keeping the reader engaged and entertained, and I found myself staring at my Kindle, my mouth hanging open, at the ends of some pieces in this collection. There were other times I laughed out loud.
My favorite story in the book is “Elaine.” I simply cannot get it out of my head. I encourage you to pick up the collection and find a favorite of your own. As I write this post, it’s $3.73 on Amazon (US). The links are below.
Sally is a prolific author and blogger and you can find out more about her here.
You can find What’s in a Name?, Volumes I and II, as well as other books by Sally, by clicking here.
And speaking of books, remember that we’re reading Stolen Memories by Mary Miley for next week. I’m about halfway through it and I’m loving it so far! The book for May will be The Life She was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman.
Via the website: http://lauraingallswilderhome.com//?page_id=322
As visitors make their trek to the historic Rocky Ridge Farm, the first sight they’ll see is Laura’s and Almanzo’s beloved farmhouse. It remains as it was in 1957 and stands as an official project of the Save America’s Treasures National Trust for Historical Preservation.
As the story goes, Laura, Almanzo and Rose moved to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894. They had saved $100 to buy land just outside of town. The two worked side-by-side for nearly twenty years in seeing the rocky land transform into a sprawling 200 acres of farmland, which included an apple orchard and space for Almanzo’s Morgan horses. During this time, they lived in the town of Mansfield while Alamanzo commuted to and from the farm. Eventually the family moved into a one room log cabin on the farm until 1913, when the farmhouse was finally complete.
When I was in college my roommate and I went to Florida for spring break. No, we didn’t party on Daytona Beach or go clubbing in Panama Beach.
We visited my grandparents.
We hit a Cincinnati Reds spring training game and bought strawberries in Winter Haven. We got sunburned lying around the pool in their fifty-five-and-over community in Lakeland. And we visited Disney World with my grandfather (my grandmother stayed home because, well, she just didn’t want to deal with Disney).
It was a fabulous spring break.
Fast forward (ahem) a certain number of years and I’m still not spending spring break partying or clubbing. This year we visited our daughter, Carolyn, in England, where she’s studying this semester. We didn’t spend more than a night with her because she still had classes, so the rest of the time we stayed in a house a little over an hour away.
For those of you who are friends with me on social media, I promised a recap of the vacation. So here goes.
We got to England early in the morning on Friday, March 30th. I hate to fly, so that’s why my first photo is of a very large, very strong Bloody Mary I had at the airport. It definitely helped.
Carolyn studies at Wroxton College, which is part of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Each semester a new crop of kids goes over to study, and this semester they were very lucky to have just 31 students. The abbey, part of which dates back over a thousand years, is where they live, play, and take their classes. We spent the first night there and it is an incredible place, from winding staircases and mile-high ceilings to suits of armor and stone floors where generations of people have walked.
Saturday we explored the grounds of Wroxton, then said good-bye to Carolyn for the day (she and the rest of the students went to a football game–aka soccer–nearby) and went to the place we had rented, a house in Croome, in the Midlands.
Croome used to be a private estate, owned by a pedigreed family and designed by famous architects and horticulturalists from centuries past. Now it’s a National Trust property (kind of like a National Park would be in the US) and there are several miles of walking trails on the property. It’s truly a beautiful place.
Sunday was Easter. John picked up Carolyn from Wroxton, brought her to Croome, and we spent the day exploring Croome, topping it off with a dinner at the Plough and Harrow, a carvery located not far from Croome.
On Monday John took Carolyn back to Wroxton in time for her first class, then he returned to Croome and we left for Hereford, a town less than an hour from Croome. Hereford Cathedral is a place I read about recently and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The photos don’t do the place justice, and the artist’s exhibition of poppies weeping from an upper window in the cathedral was breathtaking.
On Tuesday we went to Wales. My favorite part of the day was our drive through the Brecon Beacons, a mountain range in southern Wales that gave us spectacular views across the ranges, peaks, and valleys dotted with sheep and cows. We took an unexpected side trip to a distillery to try Welsh whisky and found a new taste we loved.
On Wednesday we went to Stonehenge. If you’ve never been to Stonehenge in the pouring rain with wind lashing it sideways, I would suggest waiting for a sunny day. But even with the abominable weather, it’s an incredible place surrounded by fields and farms. You can see the stones from a distance on the road, but when you get up close you realize how massive they are and what a feat of engineering it must have taken to get them standing. And I had no idea some of the stones had come from over a hundred kilometers away. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to get the stones to Stonehenge. The theories about Stonehenge (who lived there, why they’re there, what is the significance of the stones) are fascinating. We could have spent longer there, but we were soaked to the skin and we wanted to get to Bath.
Bath is a city where we wish we had been able to spend more time, but we enjoyed our short visit there. It’s so named after the Roman baths that were built there during the height of the Roman empire. There are hot springs under the city and the Romans used ingenious methods to use the springs to create an awe-inspiring series of baths, pools, saunas (called sweat rooms), and heated floors where Roman citizens of every stripe would come to bathe, exercise, and socialize. The hot springs are still there, still providing hot water to the pools and baths, but today there’s a large interactive visitors center on the site rather than a place for bathing.
On Thursday we visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, the town of William Shakespeare’s birth. We had only intended to stay for a few hours, but it’s so fascinating that we ended up spending the entire day wandering the crooked streets and visiting the homes and places that were instrumental during Shakespeare’s lifetime. We visited the house where he was born, the house where his daughter lived as an adult, the grounds of the home where he lived with his wife and children in the (almost) two decades leading up to his death, the home where his wife, Ann Hathaway, grew up, and the home where Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother, lived as a child. It’s still a working farm. We also had a proper English tea, complete with scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam (though I preferred the lemon curd). It was, we agreed, our favorite day of sightseeing.
On Friday we went to see Carolyn again, this time to celebrate her twentieth birthday exactly one week early. We had a lovely time walking the grounds of Wroxton again, and we hated to say good-bye when the time came. But we needed to get back to Croome to start packing for the trip home.
Saturday we flew home, all of us exhausted and happy after a whirlwind week seeing all the things we had wanted to see and walking miles upon miles in the process. And on Sunday I picked up the dog from the kennel! That, to me, is the best part of coming home.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a vicarious trip to England through this post. Our next vacation won’t be for a long time, so I’m going to have to come up with new post ideas…
Remember that this month’s book club selection is Stolen Memories by Mary Miley. I still haven’t started it, but I will in the next couple days. I hear it’s really good!
Next week: a book recommendation. I haven’t done one of those in a while and I have a great book to share with you.
Until next time,
The Life She Was Given for May, by Ellen Marie Wiseman.
Murder in Thistlecross A Malice Novel #3
Amy M. Reade
Lyrical Underground/Kensington, February 2018
From the publisher—
The emerald hills and violet valleys of Wales seem the ideal place to start over after murder—and divorce—shattered Eilidh’s life in the Scottish Highlands. But within the stone walls of an ancient castle, a family’s dark, violent past threatens much more than her newfound tranquility . . .
For the past two years, Eilidh has called the quaint Welsh village of Thistlecross home, embracing her new life as estate manager of a restored fifteenth-century castle. But the long-anticipated arrival of her employer’s three estranged sons and their wives transforms Gylfinog Castell from a welcoming haven to a place seething with dangerous secrets. When the escalating tensions culminate…