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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My treasure

    This week my family took a trip to Freeport, Maine. We visited my mom at a hospital in Portland and then continued North for a night away.  We decided on our way home to visit a few sites.
     Our first stop was Wilbur's Chocolate. As a candymaker, Matt is always interested in seeing products from other places and seeing what other places are doing. Ironically, we ended up walking in right as a tour was supposed to start. So, we paid the $3 and went on the guided tour of their chocolate making "factory,"  We also got to meet the owner, who seemed like a really nice guy. He was making caramel that would be later covered in chocolate. The tour was very short, but informative. They also gave out a few samples. (I would highly recommend their chocolate covered blueberriesl not the blue ones, the normal chocolate covered ones.)    A really nice touch is that they give you a goodie bag at the end of the tour. They were quite generous. We definitely took home more than the $12 of "product." Then we went to the center. 
      We avoided L.L Bean since I knew I wouldn't be buying anything that day, but would be tempted to!    My mom asked me to stop by The Mangy Moose .We had a lot of fun exploring the store and I bought some really pretty notecards. We also visited Wicked Whoopies. I had a classic whoopie pie and the boys each got a mint one. They were delicious. We ate them on our drive home. Then, we ate lunch at a "highly recommended and reasonibly priced" sub/pizza place. It was alright. The pizza slices were huge but I was not a fan of the "toasty" I ordered.
       Here's the most exciting part, at least for me. #nerdproblems.
      We stopped a used bookstore that also advertised old postcards. When we walked in, Matt pointed out a giant bookshelf filled with boxes of postcards- written/unwritten, mostly older. I picked one for my pal Ashley (oops, hope I didn't ruin the surprise), one creepy looking girl for me and one for my son's teacher, who just did a postcard project with the kids. I also bought an antique pamphlet about Massachusetts.   I could've stayed all day going through the postcards. If I was super organized and had  lot of room in our apartment, I would buy a lot and horde  keep them for myself. It was overhwhelming and tempting to be surrounded by all of the ephemera and postcards. I DIDN'T EVEN LOOK AT THE BOOKS, which were stacked from floor to ceiling. I even let Tim and David  go explore without asking where they would be. lol. Oh my goodness.   I pulled myself away and paid for my purchases.  Then, I waited for Matt and the boys. I figured that Tim was probably building a fort out of books and planning a way to live in this house forever. Despite the fact that I can get impatient when I'm ready to leave somewhere, I was super gracious that my family has always been willing to put up with my postcard/penpalling addiction. Then, I turned toward the door and noticed something stacked on the top of a bookshelf. Here's what it was (I removed the addresses):
    It is a stack of letters from 1945 from 3 brothers in the Navy. (There was only 1 letter from 1 of the brothers). The other 2 were enlisted in the Navy. Rick wrote home frequently and Bill was pretty prolific, writing almost every day. The letters were sent to their parents and younger sister. On the back of some of the envelopes were some questions that their mom, I assume, wanted to ask them in her next letters. These are guys I would've gotten along really well with, especially Bill.
      When I saw them at the store, I was immediately saddened that these weren't with their family but the bookshop owner explained that he gets a lot of stuff from estate sales. I knew I would find them fascinating. I spent about 4 hours reading them yesterday. (I felt like Nina Sankovitch must've when she was opening the trunk full of letters in Signed, Sealed, Delivered.) I spent all day today researching the information in the letters in an attempt to find the families. I think I found them. I sent a few Facebook messages today but I think they're all sent to the dreaded "other messages" folder. I even sent 2 of them a friend request in hopes that they would see my message if they accepted.  I think I even found the little sister. Can you imagine re-reading a letter you got 73 years ago from a family member who is no longer living?
         I will write more in a later post. I did a lot of thinking about some of the things I read and might like to share. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

This weeks reading

    This was a long, hard week and luckily I was able to find a little respite in reading. I finished two books.
 I received this advanced reader copy from NetGalley. I had never read anything by Ariel Lawhon and have always been interested in the story of Anastasia Romanov.  Like the author, I'm not big on princess stories, but I have always been intrigued that there might have been a possibility of a Romanov surviving. Unfortunately, in 2007 the grave containing the remaining children was discovered.
      At the beginning of the book, all I could think of was Disney's Anastasia and thinking, "I am not really getting anything out of this book." I wanted it to include a little more history. As the book went on, I became more involved. When the Bolsheviks started to revolt and the Romanovs were put on house arrest and into exhile, I started getting more into the story. I also learned in the author's notes that the Romanovs were prolific letter writers. Usually I like nonlinear books that jump around through different settings and times. The was that this book was organized was a little confusing to me though. Normally if I read in Chapter 1- Russia, 1900. Then Chapter 2, USA, 1920- I would be fine, but this one would say something like Russia 1920, 1916, 1913 all in the same chapter. I feel like it made me pay less attention to the time and I was aggravated by it in some way. With that being said, I had never heard the story of Anna Anderson before so maybe I would've felt differently if I was reading from a different perspective.

My second book of the week was Merry Christmas, Alex Cross. My upstairs neighbors loves James Patterson and always sends books down when she's done with them. (Which is why my Goodreads account has so many Patterson books read.)  I have discovered that I don't always loves James Patterson books but the ones I do like tend to be the Alex Cross books. This book starts with a hostage crisis and ends with a plot to create a new nerve gas and expose the public during the inauguration of the new president. I enjoyed following both storylines. (One thing I do like about James Patterson is that his books always have short chapters that I can spend a few minutes with and then put the book down. The problem is, sometimes I get into the story and don't want to put it down even though I can!) The only thing I disliked is that there was no relation between the 2 storylines other than the fact it was Christmas. 

Next up: Song of a Captive Bird by Jazmin Darznik

What are you currently reading?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Keyword Reading Challenge- Into Thin Air

   Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster 
 I just read this book as part of my Keyword Reading Challenge. It was recommended to me by my school librarian. It's about May 10, 1996- the day that there were the most fatalities on Mount Everest. It follows the experiences of journalist and climber, Jon Krakauer  and his team as they reached the summit and then confronted a storm on his way down. This book was very interesting since I know virtually nothing about high altitude climbing. At points it was heartbreaking to imagine what a lot of these people were going through at the time- and, honestly, some of the survivors are still going through or processing. I also was unaware of the preparation and risks associated with climbing Everest. I would recommend this if you like biographies or non-fiction.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Eyes Closed RR-sent

This month I am taking part in a round robin on Postcrossing. If you don't know what a round robin is, basically you sign up to send cards to everybody in the group and you receive on from everyone. Some people have asked what kinds of cards I have/send. I usually buy postcards at gift shops I visit, touristy places, etc. I like this RR because you're supposed to just randomly pick a card instead of trying to meet someone's requests. I thought it might be good to use some cards (some which were a little odd to send to people came out in my random grab) and to see the variety of cards other people buy. These are the cards I'm sending. I will write another post with the cards I receive when all of them have come in.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Recent cards

Here are some recent Postcrossing cards that have come my way. If you are new to the blog (or snail mail), Postcrossing is a postcard exchange site. I have met so many wonderful people on the site and through their mail to me. This is what came in this week:

From Ukraine:
I think this is my first mail from Serbia? 
     It is Milos Obilic, a Serbian hero from the Kosovo battle in 1389 when he killed the Ottoman sultan Murat.  

Lastly, this one is from Russia. This little girl looks a little like me when I was younger. I was way less fashionable though.

     I have been consistently writing this month, which feels great. Now I just have to wait for people to reply (with my luck, all at the same time.) I'm on vacation this week so I plan to catch up on all of my penpals in my "reply" pile.  For now, these are the postcards going in tomorrow's mail- all headed to people who requested me as a friend on Lettermo. Hopefully I'll make some new friends.

    I'm looking forward to having this upcoming week off from school. I will be spending a few days down the Cape with the boys. I'm so excited for a few days of rest and "out of the ordinary."