Book Review – The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I have decided that Kristin Hannah is one of my very favorite authors. Her books call to my interests, history, romance, drama and family, I have read The Great Alone, The Nightingale, Night Road, this one, The Four Winds and I have watched the series made out of Firefly Lane. There are so many more to read and I look forward to each one.

This book starts in the early 1920’s in Texas. In the beginning of the book the farmers in Texas had great crop weather year after year and the wealth and abundance was high. Then the 1930’s came along and rain dried up everything and the dust storms started. They were not able to grow anything, the water dried up, the animals were dying from lack of food and water. The dust storms would just blow in sometimes for days. People would become ill from ingesting the dust into their lungs and stomach.

This was the time of Franklin Deleno Roosevelt and the New Deal but the dust bowl was slow to get recognition to get help. Finally, when a government official from the Conservation Corp. who had been touring the Great Plains, spoke with the farmers he met with resistance. Farmers are very proud and do not want to receive assistance from the government. Also what they were told was that they were part of the reason that caused the dust bowl. That did not go over well, of course. By getting rid of the natural prairie grasses and turning the land into farmland then essentially nothing growing on it the dry topsoil would blow and blow. I remember from my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder this was mentioned when they lived in Kansas and farming was so hard much earlier. The government wanted the farmers to turn their land back into prairie grasses again and the farmers would be subsidized for this. It was slow to catch on and people started to move to the west coast like California and Oregon with the promise of jobs.

The 25 year old female character in the beginning of the book was named Elsa. Her family was very wealthy and contributed much to the community. Elsa had been unwell when she was young, and the family treated her as if she was still sick and really didn’t think or let her be part of the family. She wasn’t listened to, wasn’t asked to be part of the fun of the family. She spent much time in her room, read a lot and did needlework. She was also made to feel she was ugly and no one would want to be married to her. One day she went to the store and found some red material. She decided to make a dress out of it and went out on the town. She met a young handsome man and one thing led to another and she became pregnant. The family found out who the young man was, took her to their house and dumped her off because she has shamed her family. This is really when Elsa’s life became interesting, and this family became everything to her.

She came to love the farm, learned things, worked hard, wanted to be a good wife and fell in love with her in-laws. She ended up having a little girl, then a boy and another child that passed away. Her husband couldn’t stand the sadness of the dust bowl and left the family, and they were of course, devastated.

Eventually Elsa had to make her way away from the prairie and took her two children to California. To drive hundreds of miles with so many others, across the desert to find a better life. Of course, it is never as good as they think it is going to be but Elsa and the kids learn and become strong and meet others who are in the same boat. These people who once had been wealthy but lost everything. I will leave it here, pick up this book, it is very good to find out how Elsa and her family survive.

Book Review: “Open House” by Elizabeth Berg plus more

This author also wrote the recently reviewed book Arthur Truluve which was a new publish. “Open House” had a copywrite of the year 2000, 20 years ago. There were similarities to each of the stories as that people who didn’t know each other moved in with each other. There were also spouse and parent deaths as part of the story.

So the story starts out with a woman, Samantha, trying to come to terms with the separation of their marriage that her husband, David, wanted. They were married for 15 years and had one son who was 11 years old. They were comfortable, lived in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. The husband just wanted more and she was happy with her life. She knew that he was becoming distant and wanted to go to a counselor and figure out the problem. He eventually moved out and she was playing the “what if” game in her head. She eventually had to figure out how she could stay in the home, work out the visiting arrangements with her husband for the son and she had to find a job to have an income. Still she needed more income and she decided to take in boarders.

The first boarder was a lady in her early 80’s with a boyfriend. The second was a young introverted Asian student with a very negative outlook on life. The third was a gay man. Through all these people she gained friendships. She also took a job with an employment agency where she had different jobs weekly. One was at a laundromat, another at call center that was not on the up and up and she was happily fired from it.

Through all this she had to see her husband move into a nice apartment, and have a girlfriend with the talk of marriage. She dropped their son off one day and he wanted to show his room and she noted that her husband had a white couch. She had always wanted a white couch but he knocked that idea down, now he has one. All this time she really missed him, missed the life they had, she had taken care of him, really too much. He had this yearning for something else and he couldn’t see how good his life was.

Time went on and she tried dates that her mother set up for her. Her mother was something else and thought her daughter should just start dating right a way, after all that’s what she did when her husband died. It always bothered her daughter and eventually she realized that was how her mother had coped with his death.

Throughout this book we will live the roller coaster ride of Samantha finding her self confidence that she had totally lost due to the separation. She had always given into David and he got whatever he wanted. His family had money and he pretty much got what he wanted there and had strong opinions about having things “just so” for himself.

I liked this book, it didn’t make me want to read it in one day but it had its moments. I would say, “give it a try”.

Our house is in disarray right now. We have lived in our house for 10 years and it is time to paint and update colors. We try to do a couple of rooms each year but due to covid we didn’t have any painting done and are catching up. The last two rooms are in process. The kitchen is a called peppery and the great room will be a sage green.
I had tried the color on the wall and I believe it will be great. I have had to unload the two bookcases to be able to move them away from the wall. I really loved to become reacquainted with books I forgot that I had. The garage sale pile is growing too. The refrigerator has been pulled out and swept under, things have been dusted. It has been a lot of work but needed for sure.
Pavel had to see what I was doing this morning. He is such a sweetheart. Tom and I are getting our second covid shot this friday. I also had a cortisone shot in my knees, and they feel better so still waiting to see how long it lasts. Trying to get through the summer before I have anything done permanantly.
Our newly painted foyer. I love it and the door is a deeper color. We always have a lawn service come out and clean up the landscaping. It lasts all growing season and I have to just trim up plants that grow a little wild. We had a spicket added near our well head, and that tore up some plants and uneven ground. Having that water access will be worth it. The last thing we will have done is getting our carpets cleaned. Then we can sit back and enjoy the hard work.
Here is a great picture of a morning moon that I took recently. I like to have pictures for reference and the sky was so blue and it was clear.

A quote that made me laugh.

An intellectual is someone who can listen to the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger.

If you have any questions or want to contact me send a note. I would love to hear from you.

Book Review – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Kristen Hannah is one of my favorite authors. I have not read a book of hers that I did not like. This is a historical novel and she wrote in her notes at the end that tried to be as historically accurate as possible.

I gained knowledge from this book, for example I honestly did not realize that France during WWII had surrendered to Germany early on in the war. I don’t know how I missed this but always imagined that they were in the air and on the ground in the fight.

I had read “Returned to Auschwitz” years ago and it left such an indelible mark on me. It was an awful book that told of the horrible conditions from the Nazi’s that I have never forgotten it. Not awful because of the writing, just the horrifying content. This book left the same feeling and for a day I was depressed.

“The Nightengale” spotlights the women of the French Resistance who saved Jewish children and rescued downed airmen to help them back to their country so that they may fly again to fight.

Picture Paris being overrun by the Nazi’s with Nazi flags flying everywhere. The rounding up of Jewish people and the yellow stars having to go on their clothing marking them as Jewish and the atrocities that happened to them.

The book starts out in the year 1995 in Oregon. An elderly woman is telling about her house being for sale and that she will be moving into assisted living. She is leaving a home that she has lived in for over 50 years and her husband has passed away not too long ago but her son is watching over her and he feels it would be better for her to move.

She also talks about a life she once had in France, a life that her son knows nothing about. She left it behind after the war and she and her husband and children moved to America.

The book bounces back and forth from America to France in 1939. A woman has a young daughter and her husband has been mobilized to go into the war. But they will be able to take care of the Germans and the war won’t go on long, he will be back home soon.

But the war doesn’t end soon, and French army was being beaten by the Germans and most of the country surrenders. The little French town that they live in has the Nazi army take it over and ever so slowly it keeps putting stipulations on the French people. Taking the food, taking the art, taking the furniture, learn who the Jews, homosexuals, communists and Freemasons are. Then the Nazi’s would gather up targeted people and put them on trains to go to concentration camps. Radios were confiscated so they would not have contact with the outside world along with valuables and clothes. They had to go through cold winters, and would put on layers of clothing so that they could stay warm. There would not be wood to burn for heat. They had to stand in line for rations of food daily and if you were the last in line you may not get anything. All the while the Nazi’s were eating well, staying warm, taking all the best for themselves and wasting food. The rest were losing weight and becoming gaunt, getting sick and dying.

The book centers on two women, sisters, who were very different but brave by what they went through. Chapter by chapter it would go back and forth between what the sisters were doing during the war. One stayed in the small French town and the other left for Paris to participate in the French Resistance.

By the time we get to 1944 in the book and life is just so destitute, there is hope when you read that the Allies are freeing the concentration camps and the Nazi’s are leaving quickly. This book is so well written I felt that I was living it too. Made me think about the waste of throwing away food and reusing items. It was interesting and depressing at the same time.

So, as I said before, there are two sisters. It has you guessing till the end, who is the elderly woman? Is it one of the sisters, or the daughter or even one of the Jewish children that were saved. That is where you have to read this book to find out.

I read this book in three days and it has nearly 600 pages. It had me captivated and it also made me wish that my parents were alive. I would have had so many questions to ask. My Father was a young man in the army in Italy and my Mother lived in the USA while the war was raging in Europe. My Father passed away 24 years ago and Mother 22 years ago but it would have been an interesting conversation.

If you like history, family love, romance and daring escapes I do recommend this book. War is Hell.

Book Review: The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

I had noted in a previous post that a goal for 2021 is to read at least a book a month. So far so good so on to book number two.

The Characters are:

Arthur: an elderly gentleman who lives by himself as he had lost his wife, the love of his life, six months earlier.

Maddy: an 18 year old senior, who is very much a loner with no apparent friends.

Lucille: an elderly neighbor who lives alone and just reconnected with a high school sweetheart.

Nola: Arthur’s deceased wife

Anderson: Maddy’s one time boyfriend

Steven: Maddy’s father

This story starts out with a lot of sadness. Arthur visits his wife’s grave every day at noon and takes his lunch sandwich of peanut butter and jelly. He carries his chair with him and rides the bus with his sandwich in his pocket.

Maddy visits the cemetery often while she skips class because it is a quiet and beautiful place to think. She is bullied in school for being supposedly different and has no one that she has connected with as a friend.

Her father has no idea how to be a father for 18 years and he and Maddy have no connection either. He really shut down after Maddy’s mother passed away when Maddy was two months old.

While both Maddy and Arthur are in the same cemetery they begin to talk and begin a friendship and eventually find something they both seek. Each one serves a huge purpose for the other.

Maddy finds out that she is pregnant and tells Anderson. Of course she dreams that he is going to fall all over and be excited but he says that he is not going to be a part of this and of course acts like a dick and they part.

Maddy tells her father and of course he didn’t take it well either and was telling her what she was going to do, “get rid of that thing” and they parted ways too. He hasn’t tried to have a connection with his daughter for 18 years and now thinks he is going to call the shots.

Lucille is Arthurs neighbor who bakes wonderful treats. Her high school sweetheart sent her a letter and wanted to reconnect. They found after all the years there was still a spark and after a month they decided to move in with each other. They did not stay together in high school because he ended up marrying another woman and she had passed away. He had saved the ring that he had bought for Lucille in high school and he gave it to her. Sadly he passed away from a heart attack. Lucille was just a mess and Arthur helped her out of her despair.

Then the lives intertwine and it becomes very heartwarming where they help each other through the rough times. In their own ways they give what they have and it is just right. Along with that, they pull others into the circle of help and it is a domino affect without it being a conscious effort.

I recommend this book, it is an easy read and leaves a good feeling afterwards. My sister in law sent it for my birthday and said it was a nice book and hoped I liked it and she was right.

Book Review: The President is Missing by Clinton and Patterson

One of my goals this year was to read more books. I have so many on my shelves that I haven’t read yet and it is like a bookstore. I will look through my shelves and come across one that I forgot….”oh…yay…gotta get to that one”. So this is my first for the year. My son gave it to me for Christmas.

This story has a covert mission for the President that not many knew what he was doing. It had to be kept quiet because there was a traitor among his close circle in the White House.

The book starts with a hearing with the House Select Committee, questioning President Duncan about why a high profile terrorist had not been killed when there was the chance, had he been protecting him? This may be leading up to being impeached.

Since this book was published in 2018, many of the groups and countries are familiar. Like Sons of Jihad, Israel, Russia, Germany, and some not so familiar but relevant to the story.

The President had been a soldier and spent several tours of duty in Desert Storm. He had been captured and tortured. His wife had passed away from cancer and he has a daughter, to give a little background on the President.

His daughter was in Paris and had been contacted by a women with information to give to her father about a terror attack that was going to happen. This was the start of the action that he had to go alone on with no one by his side. Pretty unusual for a President but made for interesting reading. He had to put on a disguise, drive a car and meet someone that he didn’t know at Nationals Park.

When everything came together, and he met the person it ended up that electricity went out, someone got killed, the Secret Service were not totally far from him and grabbed him and the young man he met at the ballpark.

They took off in the black Suburban and had people following, shooting at them and crashing into them. Someone wanted to kill them but which one, the President or the young man who was named Augie.

This led to various places that were set up with communication with the White House. The American people still think that the President is missing because the news outlets are asking where he is, plus he still has to be quiet.

The President has to figure out how to stop a virus that has been put on every computer in the US. There has been a time, programed, to set it off like a bomb on that day. It will erase every file on all computers in the country. It would affect electricity, water, banking, food supply, jobs, the military and would shut down everything. It would put America into the Dark Ages, which is the code word. It would be truly disasterous. It brings to attention just how much everything we have depends on computers.

This book contains assassins’, computer geeks, secret service shoot outs and of course surprises. It did take me a couple of chapters to get interested but I did enjoy the cloak and dagger mystery of it and to figure out who is the traitor.

It was an interesting read, especially with the knowledge of Bill Clinton who knows the inner workings of the White House and James Patterson who knows how to write a good book.

Another goal that I had for 2021 was to go through magazines that I have and tear out the interesting pages to save. I have been doing this for quite a few years and my first binder is very heavy and I have started on number two. I put them in plastic and then recycle the magazines. The spine with washi tape and permanent pen.
Recipes, decorating, and knowledge to store. I really enjoy looking through these binders and refer back to them often. I got through four magazines, which was a start. Sometimes it doesn’t go as fast as I like because something catches my interest, then I have to read it, but that is what it is for.

I do hope you had a good and healthy January. Now on to February.

Book Review-Moonlight on Linoleum by Terry Helwig

This author is good friends with another well know author, Sue Monk Kidd writer of The Secret Life of Bees. She encouraged Terry to write this memoir, she told her that “the world needs your story”.

The authors mother, Carola Jean was given permission to marry at age 14, by 15 she had her first baby, Terry, then two years later another Vicki. By age 18 she decided to leave her husband and the girls father.

She moved her two girls and went to live with her sister Eunice and her daughter Nancy. The two sisters tried to be there for each other but Eunice would take off for a few days on drinking binges. She would come back and shower her daughter Nancy with gifts making up for her absence. In the meantime Carola Jean offered her daughter, Terry….the author to a great Aunt by marriage, she was turned down.

Carola Jean was working at a drug store and met Davy, a doodlebugger who is a seismic driller for oil. Shortly thereafter they got married in East Texas. He was a good man, a hard worker and loved Carola Jean greatly. Seventeen months later another child name Patricia came into the world. Davy had to be away for his work which is the time Carola Jean went to the bars and danced with other men and brought them home. Soon after Patricia was born Carola Jean moved Terry and Vicki back to Iowa to live with their biological father whom they didn’t really remember because they were so young.

So I am sure that you get the picture by now. This is the story of how a woman had to grow up so fast to keep her family together against the odds of her mentally unstable mother. From going to twelve schools, the many marriages of her mother and five siblings, suicide attempts and drug abuse by her mother and so many other roadblocks.

Carola Jean passed away at the age of 40. The book starts out at her funeral and ends with the author in her 50’s, finding her grave again to sit at it and read this memoir to her because she really was the subject of it. She was 25 when her mother died.

Book Review-The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is one of my very favorite authors. I haven’t found a book that she has written that I didn’t like. I can get lost inside the story and that is my goal for a good book.

The primary setting of this book is Alaska. The father, Ernt was in the Vietnam War and was captured for 6 years. He has a wife, Cora and a daughter Leni. They lived in Oregon, and since Ernt came home from the war he was not the same person. He was angry all the time, couldn’t hold down a job, they were always moving and always fighting.

He received a letter one day from the father of his buddy that died in the war. It stated that the buddy had left him the land and cabin that he owned in Alaska.

Ernt decided that this was the new start that they needed and prepared to move to Alaska. Cora did not have a good relationship with her parents who lived fairly close but she went to visit them before they left to see if she could get some money from them, which came in very handy since there were not a lot of jobs where they were going.

This book gave a vivid view of Alaska and the people who live there and why. It was a journey through Ernts deteriorating mental health. It took us through the domestic violence that he bestowed upon Cora and then Leni. Cora could not give up on Ernt until he had turned his violence onto Leni. The people of the town where they lived banded together and helped, first as newbies who were totally unprepared for the Alaska winters and then to help Cora and Leni get away. I could feel the coldness of the winter and how hard it was to cope, along with the long nights. Very enjoyable book!

Book Review-Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa M.D.

This book was written nine years ago and the setting is the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The author is the doctor in this facility.

This facility has three floors, and on each floor there are two resident cats. The third floor is the unit that cares for residents with Alzheimers. This is where Oscar lives. Oscar has the run of the third floor, his food and water is at the nurses station and he goes about his business visiting. But there are many rooms and he doesn’t stay long…..only when the patient is about to die. Then he will come into the room and sniff the air, jump up on the bed and curl up beside the patient. He will stay there until they pass on and the funeral home comes and takes the body away. Then he is off duty again. It wears him out and he sleeps the next day away, more so than what cats normally do.

The doctor was not a cat person, and really was skeptical about this. The nurses and aids would try to tell him about Oscar and how he could do this but he took it upon himself to visit families who had Oscar be with them. He wanted their take on this phenomenon. He received views on Oscar but he also became a much more empathetic person from speaking with these people. He understood better what people were going through when their loved one was dying from this disease. Since he also had a disease that may someday render his arms and legs useless it help him to not focus on himself but to live life well. This also gives the reader food for thought, that we don’t know what is ahead of us, what will it be like when after all the years we are married and then to lose your spouse, and not have them beside you anymore.

Every chapter in this book started with a cat quote, two of my favorites:

1.One cat just leads to another-Earnest Hemingway
2. A cat is always on the wrong side of the door-Anonymous
All in all this was a delightful book. I loved that they had cats at this facility, it made it seem very homelike and the reason why people chose to stay there.

Book Review-Without A Doubt by Marcia Clark

A few years ago I picked this book up at a used book store as you can see by the price tag of $3.00, and decided that this should be a good after Christmas read this year.

In 1995 I had a 4 year old and was a stay at home mom, so I had the time to watch “The Trial of the Century” each day and I was hooked and amazed when he was acquitted. I am still amazed after reading this book of the acquittal.

Marcia stepped away from trials after this one and she has never done another one. She also had young children at the time and was juggling motherhood, this trial, becoming a celebrity, illness, a divorce, and then her spouse filed for petition to get the children.
This is how I remember Marcia Clark in 1995, thin, now I think bordering on gaunt after reading the book, and I understand why. Such pressure this trial was and balancing everything else too.

After the trial she was offered this book deal for four million dollars. She was District Attorney for Los Angeles County, She needed the money it is not the same as having your own law practice. This trial changed her life so much, I am sorry that she only got four million. But it has led to other good things.

Here is Marcia Clark in 2016, 21 years later. She looks good! I had to study the picture before I was convinced that it was her. The trial ended on October 3, 1995 and the book was published in 1997. This book was hard for her to write, to go over the events, still recovering from her illnesses, trying to get her life back to some normalcy. She was mad, mad that the jury took race over evidence. For a trial that lasted from January 1995 to October 1995 it only took the jury 4 hours to come to a verdict.

An excerpt from the books Prologue. This book answered the questions that I have always wondered. I missed that this book came out, or I am sure that I would have read it. When I watched it on television it was broken up, and then the press conferences, it wasn’t a complete picture like this book.

Orenthal James Simpson killed his wife because he was a controlling, wife beating, narcissist. He planned the murder and poor 25 year old Ronald Goldman just happened to be at the wrong place and was murdered horrendously too. Race had nothing to do with it, but everything to do with the verdict.

Simpson had been dumped by his then girlfriend Paula Barbieri, through a voice message. Which by the way Barbieri didn’t tell that little important tid bit until the civil trial. Simpson had been ignored and not invited to dinner by his ex-wife after their child’s dance recital and he had been embarrassed. It all set him off and he planned the murder for that night.

Nicole was never able to totally get away from him like many battered women. He stalked her, watching her have sex after they were divorced, while staring though the window in the bushes. She would call the police after an episode of battering and nothing was every done. They found after her death, in a bank lock box, pictures of herself after she had been beaten. Information that she kept because she knew there was a good possibility that she would be killed and she wanted them to know who did it.

Marcia Clark has since written six other crime books and she has a show on A & E network called ; Marcia Clark Investigates The First 48. I will be tuning in for sure.

As for Simpson he was found liable in the civil trial by the Brown and Goldman family. Here is a good article about it from 1997.

In 2008 Simpson was convicted of an armed robbery in Las Vegas served 9 years of his sentence and was let out on parole in 2017. Here is a good article from the New York Times.

Also here is a pretty good article of where people are now and what they are doing. It does not talk about Nicole’s father though. He has since passed away from Alzheimers disease.

Orenthal James Simpson is now 70 years old, has now spent time in prison, owes more money than he can come up with and has been let out on parole. What is ahead for him?

Nicole Brown Simpson would now have been 59 years old

Ronald Goldman would now have been 49 years old

Two lives taken too soon and so brutally

I ate this book up and could not put it down until it was finished.

Book Review-Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

I received this book as a gift last year (2017) and it had just come out.  I didn’t read it until recently and it worked out because I then watched the HW funeral and also Barbara Pierce Bush had gotten married in October and saw the pictures of that.  I follow George H. and Laura on Instagram. 

This book was thoroughly enjoyable.  The stories of the girls growing up and when they lived in the Governors mansion then the White House.  Their college years and when 911 happened.  They loved Kennebunkport and all their Grandparents and spending time with them and their cousins.

The two girls have gone to different universities, found their own careers which are very different but their comfort zones are being back together.  The connection from the womb.  They look very different and hold themselves very different too, but they think very similarly.  Service is a very large part of their lives.  This was a great read!