Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Hangman's Secret


      This is my first Laura Joh Rowland book, but it will not be my last. Photographer Sarah Bain is awoken by a tap on her window by a source that sends her to photograph a crime scene. When she arrives at the scene with her friends Mick and Hugh, she finds a gory scene that is thought to be a suicide. However, there are signs that foul play might be present. First of all, the victim, Harry Warbrick is hung, but ended up decapitated in the process. He is the owner of a pub, but also serves as a hangman at the local prison. Furthermore, it is discovered that there is something missing from his pub that has to do with his latest hanging.  This execution was the hanging of Amelia Carlisle, who was known as the "Baby-Butcher."  She had been convicted of baby farming- taking in babies to send to new homes, but killing them instead. 
      Sarah's boss, Sir Gerald- head of the Daily World, assigns her to investigate this murder and basically challenges the police to a contest of who can solve the mystery first. Investigation of the murder mainly focus on the people present at Amelia's hanging. Conveniently, they are all bound by The Official Secrets Act- which prevents the 7 people from divulging anything that happened at the execution. 
    In addition to the mystery of who killed Warbrick, there are many subplots- Sarah's relationship with one of the police investigating the murder, a fame hungry reporter, Sarah's missing father and other family secrets. This book is set in Victorian London. 
      I received this book from NetGalley. (Thank you!) It is published by Crooked Lane Books and  will be published in January of next year.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Burn by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

        I live in a 2 family house and our upstairs neighbor, a woman in her 60/70s will occasionally send me the books she finishes. This is how I've gotten most of my James Patterson books (and perhaps how she reads anything by anyone other than James This is part of the Michael Bennett series.I enjoyed this one a lot. I don't think I've read any of the previous Michael Bennett books, but I might go find some after reading this. The story lines were simple and there was a lot of humor in the dialogue. There was some violence, but compared to other books that I have read the violence was not super descriptive or gratuitous.

    I've mentioned before that I really like how short Patterson's chapters are because I can devote a few minutes to reading- or, like today, a bunch of hours while I'm hiding from the heat outside. Seriously, I hid inside all day. At lunch time I decided that I would treat the boys to Panera just to get out of the house. However, when I got back in my car after Panera:
Gross. I was not designed to live in hot, humid weather. So, we went back home and hid from the sun read a lot. 

      Next up is an advanced reader copy that is set in the Victorian Era. I'm happy to be catching up on my reading challenges:

Goodreads: 24/60
Mount TBR 14/36
Keyword Reading 7/12 

    Now I just need to catch up with cleaning and writing. :/

Monday, July 2, 2018

Something in the Water

      I had heard lots of good things about this book so I was excited to get an e-galley from NetGalley. This is the debut book from authot Catherine Steadman, who is also an actress from Downton Abby.  This book was just okay for me. I didn't dislike the whole book but I read a lot of thrillers and found this one to be slightly predictable. 
     The book is about a couple, Erin and Mark, who discover something life-changing on their honeymoon. From reading the cover, I assumed they would find that "something" in the water. I was a little frustrated that the book starts with the main character, Erin, burying a body. I just wanted to get to what they discovered I guess. Coming back to that burial later in the book, I see why she may have put it first, but I think that's what gave most of the book away for me. There were parts of the story I would've liked to go more in depth with. I found myself a little aggravated with the personalities of the couple a few times. 
      This book fulfills my Keyword Reading Challenge for July. (Water)

    Next up. another James Patterson hand me down from my neighbor.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


        Ah, summer! I'm not going to lie, this was a really hard school year for me and I am desperately in need of a mental break. I've been off since last Thursday and still don't quite feel like myself. My children get out of school tomorrow, so I'm hoping to feel like a human again by then. ;) Despite the fact that MANY people seem to think that teachers do nothing over the summer, I have quite a few things to do to wrap up this year and prepare for the next year. I plan to gradually do both of those over the course of the summer- except clean my classroom. I really need to get into school to do that this week.

       Here are some good things going on:

1. Timmy made the All-Star team again. He's been working hard during 2 hour practices every day. He has scrimmaged 3 teams and their team has won all of them. The reason that this year is so important is that if they win, they can possibly compete in the Little League World Series in PA. That would be quite an accomplishment. He's worked hard for years to make this team.  In addition to this, it's his last year of little league. There is an award given out for good sportsmanship. His first year of baseball he told me that he really wanted that award. He has mentioned it every year since. I hope he's considered for it. Honestly, I know that winning that award would mean more to him than even getting chosen for the All-Star team.

2. David and I got to spend some time at school together. Normally, as a teacher, I lose out on the opportunities to chaperone field trips, volunteer in class and sometimes I even miss important school events since I'm teaching at the same time. On Friday we went to the Boston Tea Party museum. Maybe I will add a post about the museum another day this week. Monday I helped with a clean water presentation. My job was to show the kids a map of our watershed and help them to see where our water that is not processed ends up flowing. In other news, I was not designed to teach 4th grade. lol.

3.   I'm slowly catching up on life. I spent a little time this morning getting some chores done.  I still have lots of stuff to do, but I see progress and that feels great. I've sent a few Postcrossing cards. I am 2 pages into a letter. I have read a few books!I'm currently 6 books behind on my Goodreads challenge. I'm hoping to break even by August!  My last book was:

 This is the 3rd book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. Based on the Goodreads reviews, I wasn't sure that I would. This book follows Jacob Portman on his quest to free the peculiars who had been captured in the second book. I will say that, if it is possible, reading the third book shortly after the second book probably would've been helpful to me. It took me a little time to remember exactly what had happened in the last story. I was not as excited about some of the photographs in this book as I was in the past two, but I think that's just because they aren't as "new and different" as they seemed when the first book came out. I was excited to hear that Ransom Riggs will be coming out with a fourth book, Map of Days. I will definitely check it out. Does anybody know when Map of Days is coming out?

        Next on my to read schedule is: 

 I have heard lots of buzz about this book. Luckily, I scored an e-galley on NetGalley. Have any of you read it yet? 
         I also read a lot with the kids over the summer. David plans on reading some of the Massachusetts Children's Book Award Books. This is a list of the nominees. I'll be curious to see which ones David picks. I haven't heard anything about most of these books. Hopefully they are as enjoyable as last year's books. Timothy would like to read Les Miserables. Seriously. Our high school will be performing a "school appropriate version" of the musical in the fall. The directors sent someone to the middle school explaining that there were a few parts for younger kids. Tim immediately decided that he wanted to try out. As soon as he told me, I secretly geeked out because I love that musical and Tim could make a perfect Gavroche. He has never acted before so who knows if he will even get a part but... cool. Little did he know, Les Miserables is also my favorite book. Although Tim is an incredibly smart kid and an avid reader, I don't think he's ready for Les Miserables without a little bit of adult supervision. We're pretty strict about what kind of media our kids "consume" so there will be a lot of things in this book he hasn't really been exposed to before. I will not let him read it on his own but if he wants to read it together, I'm all in. It will be interesting. 

         What are you currently reading?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

June reading

I was able to finish a few books this month.
     This is from the Myron Bolitar series, which I have always liked. I have read quite a few Harlan Coben books and this one took a few twists I wasn't really expecting. 

    I read this one for a book club, which then ended up getting canceled. We're hoping to do the book club later in the summer. This is a book that is pretty different than what I usually read. I have never read (or really even watched) anything "noir."  I had quite a few laughs in this story. I haven't really done any book groups before so I'm excited to see what that is like. 
I received an advance reader galley of The Language of Spells from NetGalley. It is about Grisha, a dragon who has just broken free of an enchantment that turned him into a teapot for years, and a little girl named Maggie who lives with her father at a hotel in Vienna. Both characters are told that they would be special, but neither character really understands why they would be considered special.   When Grisha and Maggie learn that there are a group of dragons that have been separated from the other dragons and basically banished, they wonder how they can help. Maggie also wonders how she can enjoy normal,  everyday activities, like eating almond cake at shops, while there are things that are really wrong happening in her city. This book examines themes of friendship, inner strength and the fact that sometimes people need to sacrifice something in their own life for the benefit of the others.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Reading Challenges update- May

Keyword Reading Challenge: 5/12

I don't know how I never read this classic in my adolescence.  It was written in 1959.  It was a nice story about a 12 year old boy, Sam Gribley,  who leaves home to live in the wilderness- and actually does for months. He hollows out an old tree and builds himself a nice dwelling. He trains a falcon named Frightful and meets a few other friends in his adventures. I am looking forward to sharing this book with my 10 year old. I'm wondering what other classics I've missed

Mount TBR- Mt. Vancouver-  9/36

The last book I read for this is the same book for the keyword reading challenge. I'd like to say that my NetGalley experiences are slowing down my Mount TBR challenge, but I'm really happy to be reading all kinds of advanced reader copies, so I'll live. (My last one was Tiny Infinities by J.H. Diehl) 25% there!

Goodreads 14/60 

   I'm not going to lie guys, 2018 is kicking my butt. Personally and professionally I have had a bad year. (Remember how I said I'd miss last year's 8th graders? I was right. Seeing those kids constantly reminded me of why I teach. I think I have received one genuine thank you all year... and a whole lot of negative things.)  This has been almost half a year of getting up, putting one foot in front of the other, aiming for the end of the day and repeating. Today was my first "day off" from having things to do since mid-November. (And that's only because both boys had their baseball games canceled.) I did go out to eat with my family, but that was something I was really looking forward to.  I could really use a weekend away- or something nice and unexpected. I would like to catch up on letters and reading but my mind has been racing too much for a lot of either.

Friday, April 20, 2018

the letters

    In my last post, I wrote about 30 letters that I had found at a used bookshop.  Many people whom I've told about the letters have asked about the content of the letters. Here are some of the things that were written about in these letters:

      Bob seems to be the youngest son. He wrote 1 letter in this bundle. I know that he graduated from Annapolis in 1945, so I think that's why. His letter is a sweet letter written to his dad on his dad's 50th birthday. This letter was on stationery from the USS Lexington.
     Rick is the oldest, I think. He wrote a lot about rank in the Navy and his advancement plans. He was transferred a few times so there is information about multiple ships (and the pros and cons of each of them). I smiled everytime I read that he was taking some time to "cut you in on the straight dope" about what was going on in life. I enjoyed reading about what his bunks/ bunkmates were like, how he enjoyed the ship's library and that he felt a connection to their ship's mascot, a cute cocker spaniel named Squeegie. He wrote a lot about missing home and regretting not watching his little sister grow up in person. He was concerned about missing Bob's graduation and wedding and very concerned about how he was goign to obtain graduation and wedding gifts, despite the fact that he was looking everywhere he went for something that would be suitable. One letter told about a dream he had where his parents had sold their farm in New Hampshire. In the letter, he begged them to promise that they would not sell the farm until he and Bill were home from war because, even though both brothers tried not to say how much they truly missed their family, not only did they miss the people, but they also missed "home." One of the favorite things I read in his letters was that they had sailed very close to Catalina Island, which apparently had a bird sanctuary on it at the time. He mentioned that birds kept flying into the ship and were quite content there. They invaded the mess hall and the crews quarters. Many of the sailors would try to capture them to force the birds out but then they would fly right back in.  Rick mostly used plain, thin airmail paper, but used some cool USO stationery and YMCA stationery too.

   Bill is my favorite. He mostly used plain paper, but had one nice Navy stationery letter.
        I learned a lot from how the mail worked from Bill's letters. He wrote home almost daily. All of his letters were numbered and he seemed to ask his family to do the same for him.Almost all of his letters had been stamped by the censors and signed with his name and branch at the bottom of the page. He mentioned one time were it had been 6 weeks since they had received mail (and how he was one of the few sailors who had received ANYthing at all) and another time where the mail had come after a 50 day wait. So, he was often sitting and reading piles of mail. He cherished news from his family, especially news about home. The more news from home, the better and the faster he "devours" it. He was also sent some magazines from home. He did mention that the ships radiomen listened to the news sent over the wire and transcribed a short version of it. They "mimeographed" a few copies of the "Dots 'n Dashes" every morning for the sailors to read at breakfast. He seemed to send his pay home and was concerned about whether they received each check.
      He talked about his experiences with "the natives."  He mentioned houses (shacks) built on stilts to prevent them from sinking into the mud. He said that people and animals lived under the same roof and that people ran shops out of their homes. He mentioned that the children in these villages had little to no toys and he was curious as to how they play. One day, the sailors had a picnic on an island. He explored the jungle and saw some beautiful white birds (but no parrots or monkeys). The sailors ate and then stripped down for a swim in a lagoon. They met some natives who were "scantily clad, except for two boys who had sailor's hats like ours."  The natives were polygamous and they "looked healthy."  They mostly ate fish and coconut. The sailors gave them a hotdog.
     He liked to sleep above deck on the ship because it was too hot below deck. He had different systems for different weather. He spoke of not having Christmas Eve because they had crossed the international date line so they basically skipped a day.  Life on the ship was sometimes slow and he sometimes struggled to find news when he hadn't heard any news from home beforehand. He mentioned that if he was writing to a woman he could fill the page with mush, but that it wasn't really appropriate for his parents and sister. :) He wrote one really touching letter to his sister telling her how much he missed her and how he "met" a monkey on a beach one day and played with it for a few hours before it fell asleep on his shoulder. If he could've brought it for her as a pet, he would've. He also told her that he couldn't wait to hear her play "Starlight Waltz" on the piano when he got home. He promised to teach her to dance and to bring her out to a show and a soda.
       Bill was very expressive of his love and concern for his family. He mentioned all of his siblings, his grandparents, some friends and his parents. I'll close this with a bit of one of his letters. I love his writing. (It has inspired me to pull out my fountain pen for my next letter. (to Linn)

    I hope you can read it. It thanks his family for a branch that they sent him in a Christmas package. It says that it might seem silly, but the branch has become one of his most prized possessions. He mentioned that the smell of the branch reminds him of home (and describes home). He said that when he gets home, he would be happy with being able to explore the outdoors and that if he just had a good fly rod, sturdy shoes, a canoe and a camera, he'd be happy.
        Reading all of these letters, I kept thinking that it was a shame that these memories are not with their families. I have done some research and I think I found their families! Just last night I wrote a letter to Anne, the youngest sister, to ask if she would like these letters. I sent her my contact information so hopefully she will call or e-mail me.  I will update if the story continues.