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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

    Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors and I have read a lot of her work. My favorites include The Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Dovekeepers. Skylight Confessions, one of her older books published in 2007 was very good, but not my favorite of her work. Here is my book review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.


    Like all of Hoffman’s vast collection of novels, there is a mystical element to Skylight Confessions. But Hoffman’s gift is to seamlessly weave the magic and paranormal into a realistic plot with normal characters. In Skylilght Confessions opposites attract early on in the book when John and Arlyn have a powerful magnetism that results in a lifetime of regret. A loveless marriage filled with infidelity will result in two children, the first named Sam finds life and acceptance difficult from the start.


    Death visits the family when Arlyn dies and leaves a devastated John who turns to the neighbor for physical love. Arlyn’s death also crushes George, her one true love. But most of all it changes young Sam’s entire world and he will never be the same.


    Meridith joins the family as a nanny, but Meridith’s presence is only as a result of her ability to see Arlyn’s ghost. Arlyn is unable to cross over and haunts the families mansion and her husband John. The weight of this paranormal presence will create chaos and unhappiness through the decades, fracture the family even further and cause Sam and his sister Blanca to hate their father and stay as far away as possible.

    Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

    This is a sad story of how love, mistakes, dishonesty and grief disintegrate lives and a family…but the ending will give you hope for healing.

    ***Three stars for Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.

    Thank you for reading my Book Review Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman.

    Read last week’s book review The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray

    Last spring while we were visiting New York City ( I love NY!) we visited the Morgan Library for the first time. Oh my, I was intrigued. Following that visit several people asked if I had read The Personal Librarian? What? No, I hadn’t. And now that I have, I can’t wait to return and visit the Morgan Library again the next time I am in New York. Here is my Book Review The Personal Llibrarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray.


    This is the story of the life of Belle De Costa Greene, the Personal Librarian of J.P. Morgan and first director of the Morgan Library. Greene was incredibly intelligent, well-read, personable, beautiful, savvy and an amazing business women for the time. She was all of these things that made her successful and indispensible to J.P. Morgan for years. But she also carried a secret, one that if found out she would lose everything. She was black.

    Turn of the Century

    At the turn of the century, no black women, or man for that matter, held a more powerful position than Belle de Costa Greene. And everyday she fretted over the secret she carried. Born to a fair skin mother and father…her parents split when her mother insisted they all live as white. Belle’s father disappeared and Belle, her mother and her siblings moved to New York, changed their names, and began a life that was a lie…living as white.

    J.P. Morgan

    It’s unclear if Morgan ever knew this secret. It’s assumed others in the circle did but kept quiet. And somehow Belle rose through the social ranks and lived a life that others of her race could not even dream about.

    Before her death, Belle burnt all of her correspondence in an effort to keep the secret beyond the grave. But eventually it became common knowledge. This book is written with both facts from other historic documents, and a healthy dose of fiction. But it’s an intriguing story of the lengths someone with so much intelligence and gifts had to endure to be successful.

    I look forward to visiting the Morgan Library again. Thank you for reading my Book Review The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray.

    See last week’s book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews. And be sure to see our 2023 Reading Round Up...our favorite books from the past year.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Women Talking by Miriam Toews

    This book is apparently an Oscar winning movie…but I didn’t know that when I picked it up. It’s a strange story, that takes place over a short two-day period, in a hayloft, will surprise you, anger you, and scare you. Here is my book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews.

    Mennonite Colony, Bolivia

    This book (and subsequently the film) is loosely based on a real crime that took place in a Mennonite Colony in Bolivia. Over a period of several years, the men of the colony consistently drugged and rapped women in their sleep…even girls as young as three. The women are told by the men that they have been visited by the Devil because of their sins.

    Eventually one women wakes up during the ordeal and discovers the two men attacking her. At first the men of the colony try to impose justice within the colony, until one of the women tries to kill the men and another woman commits suicide. The perpetrators are then arrested by the Bolivian authorities and sent to jail.

    Women Talking

    While the other men go to the city to try to bail out the suspects and bring them home, the women gather in a hayloft to discuss what they might do to save themselves. Only one man is present in this secret meeting. August Epp is invited to take “notes” since none of the women are literate. The question at hand is should the women stay and fight? Or should they flee? They have very little time to make a decision. The personalities of the women come into play heavily in the discussion, argument, consideration and eventual decision.

    The Decision

    Written in an interesting style, Toews has you pulling for these women…despite the fact they are illiterate, don’t speak the local language, have no money, transportation or even a map. Can this story end happily?

    Thank you for reading my book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews.

    ****Four stars for Women Talking. See last week’s book review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unworth.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Post Card by Anne Berest

    A Novel about Parisian life in the 20th century, the occupation of France during World War II and a Jewish family with deep and tragic secrets – Anne Berest writes both from her true family experiences and fiction. This was a beautifully told story. Here is my book review The Post Card by Anne Berest.


    A Mysterious postcard arrives in the mail with the usual holiday cards to the Berest Family home. The card has no return address or signature. Only the names of the four family members who were murdered at Auschwitz – Anne Berest’s maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques. No one knows the meaning of the post card. Is it a threat or harassment in the increasingly xenophobic Europe? Or something else.


    The author, on bedrest during her pregnancy, discusses the long-forgotten postcard with her mother. Her chain-smoking mother Lelia begins to weave the tale of the Rabinovitch family from the research she has done over the years as Anne spends the last few months of her pregnancy with her mother.

    Six Years Later

    Once again the postcard is put out of mind as Anne raises her daughter Clara and continues her career. Until Clara has a playground encounter where another child says “my family doesn’t like Jews.” She asks her grandmother “Are we Jewish?’.

    Before Anne has a chance to talk to Clara about this incident she herself is questioned about her own “Jewishness” when she attends her first Seder dinner. At the dinner she is accused of being “Jewish when it’s convenient”.

    These events will catapult Anne, with significant help from her Mother, into research about the post card’s sender, her family, the occupation and the death camps. With the result being a novel based on facts and imagined family conversations, activities and events.


    First published in France and beautifully translated to English, I loved this family story that reads a bit like a detective story, a bit like an autobiography and a bit like historical romance. A work that will break your heart and give you hope. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Post Card by Anne Berest.

    ****Four stars for The Post Card by Anne Berest.

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    See last week’s book review Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinhoster

    NEXT WEEK we present our annual READING ROUND UP the year in review with our favorite books of the past year. Don’t miss it!

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster

    Sometimes I have authors or publishers reach out to me and ask me to read and review books. I love doing that especially for books produced by small publishing house or even those self-published by the author. Getting published is HARD. And the competition is fierce. This book was brought to me by Jackie Karnath, Sr. Publicist at Books Forward, a book marketing company. I was happy to look at another one of her clients having enjoyed Florida by Lauren Goff a couple years ago. So, here is my Book Review Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster.


    First of all, this is not a horror story about snakes. But it is a story where snakes feature prominently. If you suffer from ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes), you still should give this book a try. I actually learned a lot about snakes and snake behavior in this book. All that said, the deeper message in this book is a story about the tragedy of mental illness.


    Florida is where this novel is based, fittingly as the state is home to 44 species of snakes. We are introduced to a variety of characters in this story. First we meet Trina who runs a Serpentarum for protection and education about Florida snakes. When someone breaks in to the Serpentarium and steals some of her most valuable snakes the plot will begin to revolve around a cast of characters. Gerthin a very troubled young man whose love of animals in general and snakes in particular is a suspect. His sister Serena who has been raising him since their mother abandoned them a decade earlier is trying to understand and help her misfit brother.

    Mental Health

    In addition to Gerthin’s mental needs the novel brings in the character of Jazz, a homeless student living in a park, and refusing to take his bipolar meds. His gigantic mood swings and frantic love for Serena will both intrigue and frighten her. Helping to recover the stolen snakes is local cop Fletch, only months away from retirement he is trying to keep his head down while grappling with the grief of loosing his wife the year before.

    Throughout the book as the search for the stolen snakes ensues, Pinholster gently weaves the topics of homelessness, drug abuse, mental illness, abandonment and loneliness into a lovely novel you initially think is about snakes. At it’s core it’s about family. I enjoyed the book very much.

    Thank you for reading my book review Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster.

    ****Four stars for Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster. See last week’s book review This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell.

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    Snakes of St. Augustine by Ginger Pinholster
    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Olalla Bay Market

    Location: Olalla Washington, Kitsap County

    This is our third installment in our summer series Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest. Not a hidden gem for long, the new (old) Olalla Bay Market was a big hit with locals the minute it opened it’s doors this past April. Let me tell you a little bit about this Hidden Gem of the Pacific Northwest – Olalla Bay Market.

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Olalla Bay Market


    The Olalla Bay Market has a long history in the tiny hamlet of Olalla. The building has served as a general store over the past century, most recently as Al’s Market. Olalla itself, once a thriving agriculture area, became a sleepy hollow after the Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened, and ferry service to Olalla disappeared. For the past eighty years though the community has kept it’s identity with the “general store” and old post office playing a big role as a place to gather.

    Old is New Again

    Old is New Again

    In 2021 Al’s Market closed and a new owner came in. Olalla resident and New York Times Best Selling author Gregg Olsen (Starvation Heights) committed to bringing the space back as a community gathering spot under the new name of Olalla Bay Market.

    But only a few months into the restoration a devastating fire could have put an end to the dream. But no – the community rallied, Olsen set his intentions and work continued. The new (old) Olalla Bay Market opened three months ago.

    Olalla Bay at low tide

    Open and Thriving

    Serving a wonderful selection of locally crafted beer, cider and more on tap, as well as a small menu of breakfast and lunch items and house made pizza after 4pm, the community came out in droves to support the new business. With both indoor and outdoor seating, a small grocery store and gifts area as well as a rental space for small groups, the only thing the business might need to work on is more parking.

    Caprese Salad
    Pizza by the slice

    It really is a gem…a hidden gem…and one you should check out in beautiful Olalla Washington.

    Outdoor deck
    Beer, wine, cider and more

    Check out the journal, history and current events on the Olalla Bay Market website. Thank you for reading my post Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Olalla Bay Market and be sure to come back next Friday to learn about another hidden gem of the Pacific Northwest.

    Need Directions?

    See last week’s post Hidden Gem’s of the Pacific Northwest – Rodeo Drive-In here.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

    Some of Maggie O’Farrell’s work becomes favorites such as Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait…both top my favorites lists. Clearly it’s her historic fiction that I prefer. But on my husband’s recommendation I set out to read This Must Be The Place. I liked it but can’t say I loved it. Here is my book review This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell.

    O’Farrell introduces us to a plethora of characters, each connected in some way to our protagonist Daniel Sullivan. We meet Daniel as a man living in a reclusive part of Ireland with his somewhat eccentric wife and three children. But as the story unfolds we will learn details about each of their lives and why they are “hiding” in a remote location.

    Daniel has led somewhat of a bizarre life, makes a living as a linguist, despises his father back in Brooklyn, has lost track of college friends and never sees his two grown children in California.

    When Daniel stumbles upon Claudette and her young son Ari, he doesn’t at first realize who she is. But as they get to know each other Daniel realizes Claudette is the former bombshell movie star who dropped off the face of the earth at the height of her film career.

    Somehow these two unlikely characters fall in love and get married. But while Claudette is reclusive Daniel knows all of her secrets, but Claudette will learn she hardly knows any of Daniels…including information about past loves, abortions, alcoholism and a mysterious death.

    Can this couple survive the twists and turns life throws at them? With the help of family who loves them, maybe they can.

    A unique and complicated story, but in my opinion not O’Farrell’s best.

    ***Three stars for This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

    Thank you for reading my Book Review This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell. See last week’s Book Review The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese.

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