Review: The Lindbergh Nanny: A Novel by Mariah Fredericks


I learned of this book from bloggers Carla Loves to Read and  Book Club Mom  Won’t you take time to read their reviews and leave them each a nice comment? We bloggers live off comments.

My Interest

It would be hard to have read so much about World War II and not have stumbled across the other side of “Lucky Lindy”–the side the found much to admire in Nazi Germany and the Lindy who was the darling of the America Firsters So, too, would it be hard not to have heard of the famous Kidnapping of the “Lindbergh baby” and the search to find him that was led by General “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf’s father as head of the New Jersey State Police. Add to that having read several of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s books, as well as other Lindbergh fiction and well, you could say I just had to read this one.

The Story

Betty Gow immigrated from Scotland and ends up caring for the most famous baby of the day–Charles Lindbergh, jr. She is left in sole charge of “Charlie” (albeit at a home belonging to his maternal grandparents) while the baby’s parents go off on a long flying trip. On their first day a photographer sneaks a photo.

The Lindberghs, when not off flying, have been living at her parents’ estates in New Jersey and Maine–her father was Ambassador to Mexico and a Senator and they are very well off. Their new house, in Hopewell, New Jersey, is just being finished. It is constructed to be fireproof, for Colonel Lindbergh is terrified of fire. Once finished, Betty and Charlie moved into the nursery.

It was from that room that Charlie was kidnapped. A warped shutter in the new window was hard to latch and so Betty left it. Charlie was in bed with wire thumb guards on as ordered by Colonel Lindbergh, his covers were pinned to the mattress to keep him warm. Colonel Lindbergh’s rule was that no one–not even he or Mrs. Lindbergh could go in and check on Charlie or comfort him if he cried for a period of several hours. This was designed to teach the infant independence. The criminals seemed to have a perfect set-up. But, had Betty helped them? Had she said something? Shown something? Was it the caretaker couple’s plot? Did another servant have a role?

We all know the outcome for poor Charlie, but what about for Betty? This is Betty’s story–Betty’s story of living with the Lindberghs and taking care of Charlie. And Betty’s life after the kidnapping.

My Thoughts

This book is fiction based on fact. Words are put into characters created by the author. We do not really know what Charles and Anne Lindbergh may have said to each other outside of what was recorded on film or in a diary. This story imagines what might have happened in their house.

I thought Betty was fairly believable as a character. The Lindberghs were cardboard cut-outs though. I thought the author worked hard to relate the story to today’s readers. There was the “immigrant” who “just wanted to work” but had never bothered to go through the immigration process. There was the cruel U.S. Government who deported people who “just wanted to work.” Betty and her mother back in Scotland had “heard things” about the police in America. Those things got old, but were a small part of the story.

I thought Lindbergh was foolish in saying his servants were above reproach. No background checks were done before hiring them. As was typical of the day, letters of reference were all that were used–even if faked. They did not even hire through a professional agency specializing in providing well-vetted servants. But, as we would learn after his death, he was foolish in so many ways.

Interestingly, the person who most came to mind as I read of Betty’s post-kidnapping life was Monica Lewinsky. The way she was all but destroyed by the press while the man who made her famous got little censure except from his opposing political party (who, let us not forget, shoved the STAR Report down our throats with enough prurient detail to be considered only for over age 18 had it not been a government document). Betty was hounded, given death threats in the mail, and rendered unemployable.

I liked the way misinformation and bad research technique figured into the press accounts too–saying Betty had been a dancer or worse when that was a different person with that name. And, then, there was the other “modern” element–Betty’s secret (it had nothing to do with liking women or wanting to be a man). Something women in this state are hard pressed to do, but all women were unable to do in Betty’s time–except illegally.

This was a very compelling read. Give it a go!

My Verdict


The Lindbergh Nanny by Maria Fredricks

Review: Künstlers in Paradise by Cathleen Schine


Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

I admit it–the cover grabbed my attention! Of course the story grabbed me, too. Escaping Nazi Vienna to Venice, California and do ordinary jobs in places like Hollywood? Why not? And, having recently read Maame, why not read a story of a “Mamie”?

The Story

“One’s trauma becomes banal when trotted out too many times.”

The Künstlers family were helped by a committee of Hollywood moguls and employees to escape Vienna. Mamie, the daughter, was a child and so did not always notice the threats to their safety. Julian, her grandson, was a “failure to launch”–an upper-middle class young man with an education and parents with a secure life near the park in NYC who can’t seem to motivate himself to get a real, adult life with a job. Just before COVID hits, Julian is sent by the family to check on his grandmother out in California. Covid hits and Julian is stuck with his Grandmother, Mamie, her platonic companion Agatha, and an aging Saint Bernard. During their isolation, Mamie tells Julian a lot of stories about her childhood and family. Julian, a wanna be writer, takes notes and shares the stories with a young woman, Sophie, whom he meets out walking the St. Bernard .They walk their dogs “together” masked and on opposite sides of the street, talking all the time. As Mamie enlightens Julian, she not only fills gaps in his formal education, but also in his knowledge of his family and of the society they have inhabited. Julian finds confidence and begins to act more like an adult.

My Thoughts

Marked as “Humorous Literary Fiction” by Amazon, I imagine the review saying “nearly hurt myself laughing” was a plant from a friend or the publisher. There is humor in here–mostly provided by Agatha. (In the audio, Agatha was voiced like the announcer in the old Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” commercial with the Soviet woman modeling “fashions”). This is a novel in which politics belongs, but even then it got old–and I’m a liberal. I also thought Mamie got boring in certain points of the story–like filling a space with reading the encyclopedia. A little more pruning would have helped. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I got tired of the audio book narrator who tried too hard to make the children’s voices precious. I hate precious.

I thought of Julian Fellowes saying he didn’t want Downton Abbey being one of those shows where ‘oh, look! here comes Lloyd George.’ For that is what kept happening. Instead of politicians, it was a famous actress, various writers, composers and musicians. Was it believable–YES! That was the community that sponsored the family. But, one scene, with the “Great One” made me roll my eyes and debate dnf-ing the book. It was a dilemma for me–knowing it was believable but still finding parts of it to be tedious. A little can go a long way. A lot can steamroller a story and the “Great One” did that for me. I didn’t find it all poignant.

I did LOVE, love, love the “jingling tray!” That was what Mamie and Agatha had to look forward to each day–the cocktail hour–“HOURS”as Julian was corrected to say Adult Mamie, Julian, and Agatha were real to me. I loved Julian’s romance, too.

As I said, politics belonged in this book. I am not a Trump fan at all, but even I get sick of it. No matter, the author did come up with one image that made me stop and think. I’m sharing this knowing some reading this will be angry–outraged even. Remember, it is just one person’s opinion in one novel that you do not have to read, ok? It is not my opinion–merely a thought from a book that intrigued me. Do not flame me.

“Trump is more like Stalin or perhaps Mao…the affect is like Hitler, …effect is quite different…..Genocide by virus…”

I took this quote down quickly on the side of the road so the punctuation may be off. I had to turn off the book and think about it. I have studied every major modern dictator before 1984 in extreme detail, yet, like most, I ignore Mao too often. Pol Pot–yes, Mao? Was he too big? It was such a fascinating idea that I toyed with it through my errands. This quote will stay with me as Trump continues to evade the legal consequences of his actions. I will think of this now when he is mentioned.

That quote and more are why I’m positive this will be one of NPR’s books of 2023. For me, it was a decent read. Great? No. Terrible? Of course not. A perfectly fine book.

My Verdict


Künstlers in Paradise by Cathleen Schine

I listened to the audio version

Review: The Forbidden Notebook by Alba de Céspedes, translated by Ann Goldstein


Thank you to The Book Jotter for introducing me to this book.

WordPress is still not working the way it is supposed to. I have reached out but nothing has helped. I’m sorry if this isn’t as well formatted as usual.


Thank you to The Book Jotter for introducing me to this book.

WordPress is still not working the way it is supposed to. I have reached out but nothing has helped. I’m sorry if this isn’t as well formatted as usual.

My Interest

The idea of a woman with college-age children keeping a notebook–well, I must say, it grabbed my attention! I love epistolary books–stories told through diaries, letters, e-mails or whatever. That was a bonus.

The Story

“I can’t find peace anywhere. When I am at home, I always have a desire to hurry to the office. And when I’m in the office the happy excitement that animates my every gesture seems duplicitous, so I yearn to go home and feel safe.”

“…his sweet persuasive words reached me if through glass. Glass separated me from everything now….”

Valeria is a woman in Rome circa 1950, whose husband works in a routine job in a bank. He now calls his wife “Mama.” A portrait of his mother is in their bedroom. Valeria works, too, for “the Director” in a company he started as a clerical/secretary/admin. At home she has a daughter and son–both in college, both starting out on adult life. Her daughter is “modern” and is working for a law firm while attending college. She is direct and knows what she wants–and her parents be damned. The son is weak. He has a goal but not really. Valeria’s husband is bored by his job at the bank and amuses himself writing movie scripts when the office is quiet. One weekend, Valeria buys a notebook. She starts writing in it and her life is not the same. Not her marriage, nor how she views her job, nor how she relates to her family–all are changed by her thing things she writes in this new notebooks.

My Thoughts

Post-war Rome must have had many women like Valeria–many were war widows, but some must have been married with children like she was. Working to help support her family gave her a feeling of fulfillment, or power. When she finds herself drawn back to the office on Saturday–the office, where she is seen as “Valeria” and not as “Mama’ as even her husband now calls her, is intoxicating. She is valued and makes real contributions. At home, the mending basket is always full, the spaghetti and eggs she makes after work for the family’s dinner is ho-hum and she knows it. Her visits to her elderly parents on weekends are rushed. Her children get on her nerves in new ways. Her husband no longer seeks her “at night,” but she is “young” in her own mind. Her work life [no spoilers] provides stimulation in countless ways.

I have felt nearly everything Valeria feels! I may be older, but life expectancy is longer than in 1950’s Rome! I wanted to tell her to grab that brass ring! Let the family sort it out their own way. She has too much spirit to be the family’s drudge. The son ….no words. The daughter….at least she’s a survivor and goes after what she wants. The husband….hmmmm……

I LOVED this book. It hit me at exactly the right time in life.

My Verdict


Read what the New York Times had to say about this book

Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez UPDATED


My Interest

I have seen this book mentioned all over the place. It sounded interesting–and good. Thank you to Liz at the blog Adventures in Reading, Running, and Working From Home for pushing this up my TBR. Won’t you click and read her review, too, and leave her a nice comment? We bloggers live on comments.  Since WORDPRESS won’t allow me to include URLs, here is here URLS:

The Story

“I want too much out of life”

“…the life I want seems impossible and it just gets so frustrating…”

When her older “perfect” sister, Olga, is killed in an accident, Julia’s life comes apart for various reasons. Predictably, her mother’s grief focuses on the daughter left–the not-so-perfect, college-aiming Julia. Julia discovers something in her sisters room that leads her to think over her sister’s life and investigate it. Was she the perfect daughter? Her mother uses badly needed inherited money to hold a quinceañera for Julia–but it is really for the late Olga. Their mother’s guilt that she could not pay for it for Olga makes her give it for Julia. [Yes, that is a tiny spoiler–sorry].

“I feel like I’m suffocating…I can’t stand living like this anymore…. why does everything have to be so impossible all the time?”

“I feel like no one in the world understands anything about me.”

Along the way Julia goes through her own crisis of grief all the while growing up, going through her days in high school with her nose in a book, aiming, always aiming, at a better future than the life her undocumented parents have been able to give her so far. As an American citizen by birth, Julia has visited Mexico to stay with her grandmother and to get to know her extended family. She is frustrated like most teens, when told “you’ll understand when you are older.” There is so much she does not understand about her family–especially her mother and father, but she can only see that they do not understand her.

My Thoughts

“…happiness is a dandelion wisp floating through the air that I can’t catch no matter how I try….”

Like Perks of Being a Wallflower, another YA book I read as an adult, I related to Julia so much and I don’t have a drop of Mexican blood in me. Fed up with the suffocatingly small life her parents can provide, she finds solace in books and in writing. She finds that crucial teacher who supports her. She has a plan for her life–she will escape the crappy Chicago neighborhood and avoid community college and get that scholarship to a “real” college in New York City. She is determined to make her dreams into reality. I was this girl.  [Note: Since WordPress is not working properly I will also put the link to my review of Perks of Being a Wallflower at the bottom of this post]

Unlike Julia I wasn’t much of a student, my parents did support me, and I was middle class, but I still felt total solidarity with her anger and her passion. I did escape the “community college” (not the real one, but the local state university) and went away to a big college with a huge array of amazing classes. Sadly, I was too immature and too plagued by what today is called social anxiety to do as much with it as I should have.

“I’d rather live in the streets than be a submissive Mexican wife who spends all day cooking and cleaning.”

Like Julia, I became a feminist (the ’70s sort–not the woke variety of today) watching my parents (to me) miserable marriage. I knew I couldn’t do that. Unlike Julia, I knew always that I wanted children and a husband–just not a marriage like my parents’.

And, what about secrets in a family? Who has an obligation to keep them? Julia debates this. My teenage life was in part derailed by some of those family secrets–not really secret but I was just finally “old enough” to know. Only I wasn’t. But none of us knew that then. I felt for Julia in these scenes so much. She had to know her family’s secrets–she needed them truly to grow up, just as I did. But what of the secrets she carried? Thankfully, I wasn’t burdened with such secrets.

Never mind the differences–me born in the JFK years, Julia in the years of contentious border debates, this Julia is a soul mate.

My Verdict

Although I had a few tiny issues with the story, the emotion of the story was so real to me that I won’t take off for a few tiny moments.


I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez

I will say that the editor should have changed the word “forceps” in the sentence about rare books. It was too odd a choice and stood out in a way that sentence wasn’t meant to. But this is a comment for the editor–not the author.

I listened to the audio version. All quotes are taken down by me from the audio and may not be completely accurate.

My review of Perks of Being a Wallflower:

Review: Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash


First, thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of this audio book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

The only things I’ve seen or read about children sent to safety the USA or Canada from the UK in World War II were the Dutch princesses (one of whom was later Queen Beatrix), the grandchildren of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (related to the Dutch princesses as well as being a granddaughter of Queen Victoria via her youngest son, Prince Leopold) and the Mountbatten girls–whose great-grandfather, Sir Ernest Cassel was Jewish. The other exposure I have to these children is the tragically bad sequel to the movie, Mrs. Miniver in which the previously adorable little son comes back with baseball catcher’s gear and an odd way of speaking. Nonetheless, I’ve always been intrigued by how those children went on to live their post-war lives. Some came home well before the war ended, others at the end.

The Story

Only child Beatrix is sent by her loving parents to an American family in Massachusetts to stay safe during the war. Her parents are away of many “bad” things happening to children evacuated to the countryside in England, so they send her abroad. She lands with a great family who seem way wealthier than her own. But, the father is a prep school teacher (UK public school) and the glorious house comes with the job. But, “Mrs. G”–the mother, owns an island off Maine thanks to her much wealthier family. But the G’s live on Mr. G’s salary. They are a mostly happy family and they fall in love with “Bea” and she with them.So much so that it is many years later that the find out she is called “Trixie” at home–not “Bea” (supposedly the other Royal Families refer to now former Queen Beatrix as “Trixie Holland”). The two sons, William and Gerald, are on either side of her in age so they make a good family. The summers in Maine are magical for them. Naturally, over the five years they are a “family” William and Bea grow a bit too emotionally close. Just in time though, the war ends and Bea must go home to London, to a small flat, a widowed/remarried mother and morph back into “Trixie”

The story carries on for several years until the “children’ are in their late 30s or so. We find out some of what their post-war lives are like.

My Thoughts

Overall, I loved this story, but the first part, during the war, was stronger. I was interested in what they all did after the war, but I felt too little was made of Trixie’s re-integration into London life. There were a few puzzling historical things that “could” have happened–I’m not saying they were impossible–the author may, of course, draw on personal experience. At any rate they did not change the story or my rating. Just odd that an editor didn’t say, “hmmmm” as I have.

  • A waspy, but middle class preppy-Harvard banker gets his working-/maybe middle-class Irish Catholic “fiance” knocked up in the Boston 1951 and doesn’t marry her? With a Priest brother? A brother who serves a local church? Hmmmm
  • A non-Catholic having a Catholic funeral and burial before Vatican II?? And Alice in Wonderland being read at the funeral? hmmmmm
  • A coed faculty house at a prep school in 1964? Maybe at Putney or the UK’s Somerhill, but doubtful at an obviously Episcopalian boys school with a chapel.
  • One character’s Kennedy obsession got irksome. Understandable at the time that part of the story was set, but still it got tedious for me.


I look forward to more from this author.

Beyond That, the Sea: A Novel  publishes March 21, 2023, but is on sale for Kindle pre-orders at $14.99

Review: Charlotte Fairlie by D.E. Stevenson


My Interest

After messing up #DeanStreetDecember, I had to redeem myself for #readindies!  This one was on my Kindle and sounded fun, so…..Not only redeeming myself, but “rescuing” an impulse Kindle buy and actually reading it. Once again though, I am struggling with print reading. Never mind! #DeanStreetPress gets most of my indie money and they never disappoint.

Thanks to Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings for hosing #readindies month. (WordPress isn’t liking hyperlinks, so here is the link:


The Story

“Far in the distance there were purple hills, their outlines softened by haze. All the colours were clean–like the colours in a brand new paintbox–and the sunshie was so strong that the very air seemed to glitter….”

Girls boarding school headmistress Charlotte is leading a predictably drab life. An old harpy of a teacher on her nerves, platonic almost work dates with a local headmaster, and all the drama only a group of women aged 8 to death, shut up in a school together can deliver.

“Charlotte saw a tall man with a brown face and hazel eyes…his hair was the colour of old mahogany, dark reddish brown, with copper tints where the sun had caught it….he was full of life and vigour….He was in full rig to-night, with kilt and silver buttoned doublet and lace falls at neck and wrists….he wore his finery with same unconscious ease as the old faded kilt…and patched tweed jacket which he wore upon the hill.”

But Charlotte does take an interest in her students. One girl,       comes from a local home with a very odd father. Another, Tessa MacRynne, in a on an island off Scotland–the island is her father’s estate. When it comes to pass that Charlotte is to spend part of her holiday on the island with the two girls and the local girl’s young brothers, her life starts to improve. One reason for this is Rory–the Red MacRynne!

My Thoughts

Probably because I was forced to spend 40 hours a week at a desk surrounded by out-of-control, cliquish women, I actually must say I found the first part of this book….sssslllooowww. I got very tired of the old shrew.  Sir Joseph was right, she was “An obnoxious female” indeed! Thankfully, once Charlotte stepped off the plane and into the boat (I love how in the UK everything is a “yacht”) to go across to Targ–the island estate, had time allowed I’d have finished it in one sitting. Exactly the sort of book I needed at that moment–greatly helped by a big Scotsman named Rory (a favorite name of mine since before the Gilmore Girls made it a girls name).

And then there’s that last little gift….what boy wouldn’t want to grow up to be the “factor” on a Laird’s island estate? Too swoony.

The tedious beginning (there is setting the atmosphere and then there is making it so real you can’t escape it–a lost art today) was annoying, but Targ and the world that existed upon it more than compensated.

Charlotte Fairlie by D.E. Stevenson. For once I read the print (Kindle) version, which is only $2.99  Link to book–Wordpress is not liking hyperlinks.

Is it my imagination or is Rory (on the book’s cover above) wearing the Lord of the Isle tartan which someone else is modeling below? 

Photo from by Tim Graham of Tim Graham Photo Library [Wordpress is being weird with hyperlinks]


Photograph: Tim Graham/Tim Graham Photo Library found HERE


Review: Homestead: A Novel by Melinda Moustakis


Thank you to Netgalley for a free copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.



My Interest

In my twenties I often wondered if I could handle Alaska. In my late 20s I went out to Northern Idaho, where my artist great-uncle and great-aunt lived until some lamentable far-far-far right wing groups invade and before the area was “developed” to cater to tourists and Hollywood. It gave me thoughts of a life lived in peaceful solitude, and the beauty of nature. You are laughing, of course. Never did I consider the WORK involved! LOL So, anyway, Alaska has long been on my radar. About 10 years ago a young friend moved there just for an experience. Even with an excellent health profession, it was so expensive we all mailed her food!

The Story

Not too long before Alaska achieved statehood [January 1959], a young woman from Texas journeys to Anchorage to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. Not wanting to go back, she looks around and finds herself a suitable guy. Marie and Lawrence marry and take out a homestead. This is back in the days of American Colonialism, when there were “no” settlers in Alaska because there were only the indigenous people whose land it was.

Lawrence has what we call PTSD today from his stint in the Army during the Korean “Conflict”–it was never declare as a “war.” He deals with it as best he can through hard work or even exercise. Meanwhile, he and Marie set up house in an an old bus modified to have a wood stove, while they clear the land and build a cabin. In town they see “natives” treated badly, but being people of their time and not woke individuals of today, they don’t like it, but they feel they must mind their own business. Lawrence is a little obsessed with “proving” his claim–[maybe a minor spoiler] it ties in a bit with his PTSD. Marie wants to share in the “proving up” of the claim. She though is by now pregnant. Her sister, back in Anchorage, has not been able to have a child. This is predictably a cause of tension between them.

The hard work of the homestead is obvious. Lawrence’s father arrives to help build the cabin and Marie is grateful. Her sister is her sole “support” in terms of a “support network,” as we’d call it today, but Lawrence’s father is soon added to that.

Late in the story, they take a risk and ask to be introduced to a father and son–Native Alaskans. They learn a bit about how they see things. The story does not catapult them (thankfully) into modern views, but they do learn and grown from it.

The parallels are between Lawrence and Marie growing in their marriage and Alaska going through the growing pains from Colonial “Territory” to full statehood–even though many would prefer they be independent (just like Puerto Rico).

My Thoughts

In Peace Corps I learned a lot of the idiocy of the “Great White Savior” mentality like bringing in Monsanto for fertilizer so that without it crops failed. Or showing people who had been successfully growing their own food for centuries a “better” way to do it based on what worked in North Dakota. At the time I read this I saw the “other” side of Mt. Rushmore–a mountain that to certain Native Americans symbolized their history. I can honestly say I knew nothing of that. And, while I would still like to see Mt Rushmore, I will view it differently. All of these things, as the woke would say, provide the “lens” though which I viewed the story–or “informed” how I took in the story.

No matter, it is a very compelling story told mostly with the manners and mores of the time–something I value in historical fiction. Not everyone was as clairvoyant as many authors want their historical characters to be. That Lawrence and Marie even agreed to meet Alaskans was a huge deal and made an impression on them.

That said, I did not really “get” the symbolism (if there was any) of Lawrence’s big “thing” [no spoilers]. Was it a modern-day attack on men? Was it something to do with his PTSD? Hmmmmmmm. Otherwise, I thought the book was very “real.” The actions of the characters were believeable. The author planted me firmly in that homestead. I felt the angst of Anchorage residents at statehood as they waited to see if their lives would improve with the Capital being moved there (hint: Capital is still Juneau). This part of the story caught my attention as I was in Peace Corps with one of the Anchorage City Planners from just after that era. Fond memory.

No matter, I enjoyed this book tremendously. I look forward to reading more from this author.

My Verdict


Homestead: A Novel by Melinda Moustakis will be published on February 28, but is available for pre-order in all formats.

Read Indies Month Review: My Father’s House: A Novel by Joseph O’Connor


My Interest

So much to attract my attention here! Getting the “good guys” away from the Nazis! A priest! Rome & the Vatican! Sign me up! That it is from an Independent Publisher and

Thank you to blogger What Cathy Read Next for alerting me to this book. Won’t you click to read her review, too, and leave her a nice comment? We bloggers live off comments!

Thank you to Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings for hosting the event!

The Story

“…doing it feels the burden it is”

This wss book is inspired by the heroic, real life Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty.

World War II is rumbling on. in 1943-1944, the Nazis are in control of Rome. Many people have fled across the painted line that denotes Vatican City–a sovereign country within the city of Rome. O’Flaherty, aided by a band of friends from all walks of life and a variety of countries of origin, form an underground escape network for Allied POWS or Jews. They meet and cover their meetings–actually held one-on-one between Hugh and one person, while rehearsing as a choir.

“…the many-roomed emptiness”

Like Daisy Jones and the Six, this book uses “documentary” chapters featuring “interviews” later in life with some of the principal characters. Through these we learn much more about the characters, how they knew Hugh and what their lives became.

My Thoughts

I was drawn in immediately to this story. I had never heard of this author, who is Irish, but I will definitely read more by him. In fact, it says this is part one of a trilogy, The Rome Escape Line Trilogy, so that is very exciting. The characters were so real. O’Connor is a very astute student of human nature. His turn of phrase–I’ve quoted my two favorite little lines, is wonderful. O’Connor’s Hugh is a master at the game of cat and mouse and the final twist was not one I saw coming! He was so adept at seeing the “game” and getting the playbook just right before handing out the assigned plays–he could coach the Super Bowl winning team.

FYI: Though I finished it too early, another reader could use this for Reading Ireland Month, hosted by another wonderful blogger, and another Cathy–this time Cathy at 746 Books. The print version of this book is from Europa Editions. I listened to the audio version. I will be trying out a few more of this indie publishers titles.

My Verdict


My Father’s House: A Novel by Joseph O’Connor



Maame: A Novel by Jessica George


First of all, thank you to #NetGalley for a free copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

This just sounded good!

The Story

Maddy, aka Maame (pronounced somewhere between Mame and mammy) is the child of Ghanian immigrants–who moved to London for a better life for their children. Her mother returns to Ghana for up to a year at a time to run a business. Her father, now stricken with Parkinson’s is at home in London. Maddy’s older brother has his own life elsewhere in the city and does little to help her with the care of their father. Maddy gave up the chance to go away to “Uni” (college) opting instead to go to a University in London and live at home. Her degree in English Literature, predictably, hasn’t gotten her very far up the career ladder yet. She is a personal assistant (secretary). When her mother returns to London this time, Maddy decides this is “her” time and takes a room in a shared flat with other young professionals. She begins dating. But then….NO SPOILERS…..

My Thoughts

I liked Maddy. I liked her reluctance to stray from home or from “the rules,” but I also understood her angst about missing out on what people her own age were doing. She is young and naive in many ways, too grown up in others. Her naivete causes her to miss a red flag or two–the sorts of things we all could miss at 25. I loved how she would Google stuff to decide–who hasn’t done that these days? I also felt everything when her work situation wasn’t going the way she wanted–especially regarding “intellectural property.” (Trying not to have spoilers).

Her faith matters to her–it matures as she matures in the book. She learns the difference between smoke/mirrors and doing what has to be done. Upon losing her virginity at the grand old age of 25, Maddy is beset with some predictable angst and engages in some deep searching within herself..

“What does God think of me now… Is [he] religious? Does he know that I am? What I call a modern day Christian, a Christian who wants to get into heaven without doing any of the dutiful stuff because surely believing in Him is enough of an entry requirement and its really hard to go to church every Sunday and then read the Bible every day, too.    and not drink, smoke… gossip, lie and watch tv and listen to music with none of the aforementioned….”  [quote taken down from the audio–punctuation may be incorrect]

I liked that quote, but was left wondering–is it only ok for non-whites to be Christians today? Would a white girl have been given the same respect for waiting “so long” to have sex in a book today?. I wonder. But, maybe the Christian dissing isn’t so bad in the UK for anyone? I don’t know.

I also cheered her as she dealt with the truly hypocritical aspects of her mother’s faith. I want to be clear, we are ALL hypocrites–every single one of us, in some way. I do not buy into the modern mantra that ALL Christians are “this” or “that.” But her mother truly was caught in the type hypocrisy that can give Christians, at least here in the US, a bad name.

If I had a print or ebook copy, I’d give the long, delightfully skewering quote on the funeral industry. It was absolutely perfect.

Ignore the truly ICK comment from the friend described as “…a serial over-sharer” early in the book–it is an apparently obligatory mention of such to make a bestseller. There are a few other such moments–just endure, the “normative construct” and “bi-erasure” guy especially. I didn’t mind the last of these scenes–it fit the story, showing what is out there on dating apps. The other seemed part of a check list. I also did not object to the scene at the end of the book–it fit the story so well.

Another debut that is hard to believe IS a debut novel.

My Verdict


Review: Nuclear Family: A Novel by Joseph Han


My Interest

For once I failed to note where I found this. So, if it was your blog, please let me know, ok? I love to give credit where it is due.

The book captured my attention for a couple of reasons: Hawaii is a state I know really only for Pearl Harbor and Magnum PI (the REAL one with Tom Selleck). And, Korea–I only know my neighbor and our late friend at church were both in the war (“police action”) that spanwed the t.v. show, M*A*S*H). Plus, it was a family story with a family business–that all sounded good.

The Story

The restaurant was louder than Grace could accommodate and process, and working the register was no worse than the sound she detested the most: the scooping of mac salad, squishing, her skull being emptied of a brain, eaten away by the thought of working another hour.

Grace’s parents moved to Hawaii and opened what became a small 3 location chain of “Korean plate lunch” restaurants. A family business. In Hawaii, the US military, Hawaiians, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and mainlanders are all thrown together. Grace though embraces a different culture–she’s a stoner and wanna-be graduate student. Meanwhile, as graduate schools process her application, she is still manning the cash register in one of the family’s restaurants.

Grace’s brother, Jacob, has taken a job teaching English in one of the many after school “schools” (tutoring centers) that Koreans so often make their kids attend. While there he is taken over by the ghost of his grandfather who deserted the family. The family fled from the North to the South during the war. Jacob wrestles with the spirit in much the same way a believer might who feels taken over by Satan could wrestle–like what is plotted in the Screwtape Letters. On a visit to the DMZ Jacob seems to try to go into North Korea. Back home, a little later, a mistake leaves the world thinking North Korea is sending missles to hit Hawaii.

My Thoughts

“,,,this is how I walk the Earth without you….”

Parts of this book were very good. Other parts were very tedious. For example, what was the point of reading long lists of names? Very dull. I recall where ever it was I first read about this book saying they’d have liked the book to be more conventional. I agree a good bit with that. Surprisingly, I was not put off by the ghost part. Usually I’d roll my eyes and pass on a book with that! It was ok. The spirit life line got a bit long though. I’d have liked more of the “normal life” side of the story.

I like Grace more than I Jacob. I thought she was the “smart one” brought back to life [see the spirit part of the book]. One review mention a gender aspect, but I must be too dense or too old or whatever to catch that part. I did wonder why the spanking thing was necessary–was I wrong to take that as  _ e-x–l?

I found the attitude toward the Christianity many Koreans embrace to be respectful, A little tongue-in-cheek here or there, but not rude or derogatory. That was a nice surprise. And, for a book written a few years ago and published finally in 2022 there were not hit-you-over-the-head messages about how awful a certain President was. Sick of that, even if I didn’t vote for him.

I look forward to reading more from this author even if I didn’t find this book as “creative” and all the other gushing words the big reviewers used. He tells a good story and should get even better at it with time. The unusual elements in this book did add to the telling of the story, but a little pruning of them would have helped.

Now I’m desperate for SPAM and kimchi though!

And, isn’t that cover gorgeous!! I love it.

My Verdict


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