Little Faith @shotgunbutler @eccobooks #family drama #religion #faith #family #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Sometimes a simple loving story can move one to tears. Sometimes that story can make you feel the love flowing from the words the author has placed upon a page. Sometimes a story can be peacefully told, wonderfully stated, and make the reader very glad they picked up a book.

Little Faith

Jan’s review

When this book was recommended by Ann Patchett in the her newsletter, I knew I had to read it. And am I glad I did! My friend Marialyce and I read this together and it gave us much to discuss and ponder.

Peg and Lyle are a hard-working salt of the earth couple. They live in a small town in rural Wisconsin where everyone knows their neighbor and they help each other out when trouble strikes. They live simple, contented lives. The story is told mainly from Lyle’s POV. As his inner life and struggles are revealed, I found him relatable even though we live very different lives.

These are characters that are so well developed I felt as if I knew them. The supporting characters are wonderful as well, especially Lyle’s lifelong friend, Hoot. I just loved him!  Their relationship epitomized what it means to have a friend and be a friend.

Years ago, after the devastating death of an infant son, Peg and Lyle adopted a daughter,  Shiloh. After her tumultuous teenage years, she left home but returned years later with her 5 year old son, Isaac. Isaac is the apple of his grandparent’s eye and they enjoy a very close relationship, one that warmed this grandmother’s heart.

But trouble is brewing. When Shiloh falls under the spell of the preacher of a radical “church” who believes in faith healing instead of medical care, Peg and Lyle fear for their grandson’s life when he falls ill. The dilemma of what to do provides much of the tension in the book. How far can and should grandparents go to intervene? There are no easy answers, and risks with any option. Knowing this story was inspired by a true event (described in the afterward) made it even more meaningful.

Beautifully written and told over the course of a year, this book affected me deeply. It’s a story of family and friendship,  parenting and grand parenting, love and life, faith and doubt, aging and illness. 

Thought-provoking and powerful, this story resonated deeply with me. It’s one of those quiet novels that has a lot going on under the surface and is quite deep.

Highly recommended! This would make an excellent book club choice.

Marialyce’s review

It is often difficult to look back upon a life and see all its pitfalls and unhappiness. However, for Lyle Hovde, and his wife Peg their life seems one of contentment. Their daughter, adopted when she was just days old is home again with her six year old son, Issac. The Hovde’s had lost their son to illness when he was just a baby so they doted on Issac. It is Issac’s grandfather through which this story is mostly told, and he adores Issac. Peg is a religious god fearing woman while Lyle has issues and doubts about faith and the church’s teachings. Lyle is a good man and tries to reconcile what he feels but when his daughter Shiloh, a difficult person in her attitudes and previous behavior, joins a church that has questionable tenets, Lyle becomes immersed in a struggle that is sad and overwhelming.

As Shiloh becomes more involved in the church and its pastor, Steve, she moves away from the loving protection of her parents taking Issac with her and ultimately forbidding Lyle from having contact. It’s a hard blow to Lyle and he suspects, especially with Issac being diagnosed with diabetes, that there is something quite amiss with this new church and Pastor Steve. It is Pastor Steve’s belief that six year old Issac is a healer, that he is able to lay his hands upon an ill person and they will feel better. There seems to Lyle, something sinister and evil about Steve, but his daughter is enamored and immune to Steve’s possible ills and places her son in his care and guidance. Bad things seem to be in the future for Lyle, Peg, and the two they love. Is there a way out of this dilemma or are Lyle and Peg never to be that wonderful integral part of Issac’s life they one envisioned?

This was a beautifully told story, evocative of a well drawn character study that places the protagonists forefront in the reader’s mind. Mr Butler allows us into the heart and soul of characters who deeply care for one another and through the images of the passing of the seasons, he paints a picture of love, loss, and faith. Protecting the ones you love is often difficult, but it is a journey we all travel and a job we all take into our hearts. Recommended to those who so enjoy a wonderfully written, beautifully portrayed story with characters that work their way into your soul and heart.

Jan and I once again were able to share this story. We both were amazed that this simply told tale reflected so much upon the struggles so many have with their faith, their family relationships, and the connection between grandchildren and their grandparents.

and here’s the author:

Portrait Butler 01

Nickolas Butler was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His first novel was the internationally best-selling and prize-winning Shotgun Lovesongs, which has been optioned for film development and has been translated into ten languages. Beneath the Bonfire, a collection of short stories, followed a year later. In 2017, he published The Hearts of Men which was short-listed for two of France’s most prestigious literary prizes even before its American publishing. In 2019, his fourth book, Little Faith was published, and he is already at work on another novel, this one set in the mountains of the American West. Butler is the recipient of many literary prizes and commendations and has published articles, reviews, short stories, and poetry in publications such as: Ploughshares, Narrative, and The New York Times Book Review, to name a few. Prior to publishing Shotgun Lovesongs, Butler worked a long list of jobs including: coffee roaster, liquor store clerk, office manager, hot-dog vendor, author escort, meat-packer, bed-and-breakfast manager, telemarketer, and Burger King maintenance man. He is married and lives with his wife and two children on sixteen acres of land adjacent to a buffalo farm in rural Wisconsin.

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Normal People @sallyrooney #relationships #literaryfiction #irishauthor #fictionfriends #duoreviews @NetGalley @JanBelisle @absltmom

Sometimes, you just need to read a book with a friend in order to truly appreciate its beauty of writing and sadness in its telling. Jan and I had so much to say and speak about in this story that it made us both realize what a wonderful book this was. Any book that makes for a road traveled through darkness and despair can certainly be one that encourages deep and meaningful thoughts and words. Normal People was just such a book.

Normal People
“Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything,”

Jan’s review

How do two damaged people,  who long for nothing more than to be “normal”, navigate the intricacies of a relationship? This book tore my heart out and stomped on it, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Marianne and Connell become acquainted when his mother is the housekeeper for her family. Marianne’s family is wealthy, but she is the smart, nerdy, unattractive girl who is an outcast at school while Connell also smart, is the popular jock. They enter into a relationship that he wants to keep secret. Marianne doesn’t feel as if she deserves anything more than this and so accepts these terms. The relationship has its ups and downs and neither can communicate well with the other.

Circumstances occur that drive them apart but their paths cross in college and they find their positions are reversed. Marianne is now the sophisticated, popular girl while Connell’s lower socioeconomic status makes him feel unworthy. He is now the unpopular one who is the outsider.

In the ensuing years, they drift in and out of each other’s lives.  As the reader, we are privy to their innermost thoughts and desires, their longings and their pain. We know their sensitivities, and what makes them tick. We learn details of their backgrounds and the resulting pain and hurt. 

 Sometimes the damage and the pain is just too deep to reveal oneself to another. It’s better to bury it and deny it, to pretend to not care as a defense mechanism. The truth is you care very much, but you don’t feel deserving of love and kindness. Such a person often turns to unhealthy ways of managing their pain. When I discovered one of Marianne’s coping mechanisms it was devastating.

“Deep down she knows she is a bad personality, corrupted, wrong, and all her efforts to be right, to have the right opinions, to say the right things, these efforts only disguise what is buried inside her, the evil part of herself.”

On seeing two friends happy together… “It gives Marianne a window into real happiness, though a window she cannot open herself or ever climb through.”

I loved the way the author portrayed these characters as so very flawed, but gave us the information we needed to understand them. There’s so much pain in their young lives that it made my heart hurt.

Connell is just as broken:

“he had just wanted to be normal, to conceal the parts of himself that he found shameful and confusing.”
“…internally he felt nothing. He was like a freezer item that had thawed too quickly on the outside and was melting everywhere, while the inside was still frozen solid.”

Can these two people ever find happiness? Not just with each other, but with life in general. My heart broke, then grew hopeful, and then broke again. 

I read the majority of this novel in one sitting. I could not tear myself away. The writing is gorgeous and I’m in awe that someone so young has such insight into the human heart and can write in a way that delivers such an emotional punch.

It’s no secret that books that delve deep into a character’s psyche are my favorite types of reads. They deliver all the emotions that makes for an unforgettable read. People who walk around with invisible scars that make them feel unworthy and  ‘less than’ touch me deeply. Yes, this is fiction, but I know there are people walking around just as scarred.

The ending…I don’t see how it could have ended any other way. It isn’t tied up in a neat bow but gives the reader much to ponder.

Note there are no quotation marks which I can find annoying and gimmicky, but in this case it worked and worked well. After a few pages I didn’t even notice.

Marialyce and I read and discussed this together. It’s a book that begs to be discussed the minute you turn the last page.

Many thanks to Netgalley for my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Marialyce’s review

In this age of instant communication, texts, email, social media, we do think that we make instant connections, that people understand us, they get us and we get them. However, what is often left unsaid, contained within our mind, might just be the link to our happiness. For the two main protagonists in this book, their communication with one another never really happens for one is ever so afraid to open up herself and the other is afraid of the social strata he thinks he just can never attain.

Marianne, is a troubled young woman, a pariah in high school, an abused child who retreats into her shell and allows no one to invade her inner self. She knows Connell, a fellow student, the son of a woman who is a maid to her family so when they strike up a relationship initially sexual in nature, but then it develops into something more. Their relationship is kept ever so secret, and they avoid each other so awkwardly in social situations that it is painful to read of their struggles.

Connell is attracted to Marianne. He is the handsome, out going, brilliant student who looks like, on the surface, to have it all. But, he too, harbors major insecurities and when both Marianne and Connell head off to Trinity College, those deep devils embedded in both their psyches begin to emerge in force. They both feel unworthy, Marianne feels she should be abused for that is what she deserves, “There’s always been something inside her that men have wanted to dominate, and their desire for domination can look so much like attraction, even love.” while Connell feels that he just does not belong, lacking the thing he thinks makes the world go round. “That’s money, the substance that makes the world real. There’s something so corrupt and sexy about it” They are both intellectually brilliant, but in matters of the heart and living, they are ever so lacking.

This is such a sad tale, for these two people thrown together through their young lives, love and care for one another. Problem is one is ever so afraid to let it be known because she feels she deserves abuse, while the other can’t seem to feel he is worthy of anything, especially love. As they grow into young adults their roles reverse as Marianne becomes what Connell once was and Connell becomes what Marianne was. It’s a story of words unspoken, of thoughts not expressed, of two lives that should have melded together and yet are worlds apart. Neither one of them feels worthy of love, worthy of holding a place on this earth, and the tragedy of this story is that they might never find out that they are destined to be with one another.

Sally Rooney has written a tale of heartbreak and hopelessness. She takes us deep inside her characters, allowing the reader to truly see their melancholy and misery. In this world of people portraying their lives so openly on social media platforms is this story really the way many people are, insecure, forlorn, and in misery? Or is it that these two characters are so psychologically broken that their chances for happiness will never happen and they will go through their lives broken, dejected, and disheartened? It’s their fear and their thought that they deserve misery that drives them. This is a tale of woe, depression, and despondency.

and here’s the author

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/24/sally-rooney-conversations-with-friends-interview-salinger-snapchat-generation

Miracle Creek @AngieKimWriter @fsgbooks #autism #handicapped #alternativemedicine #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Parenting is hard work and every parent knows that. It’s a time of fun, frustration, happiness, anger, love and even twinges of hate. However, as hard as this job is being a parent to a normal child, it is incredibly more difficult, more trying, and more heart breaking being the parent of a handicapped child. In the book, Miracle Creek, Angie Kim tries to point out how very difficult that job is.

Miracle Creek

Jan’s review

I loved this book! This is a fascinating murder mystery/courtroom drama/immigrant story that is unlike any other I have read. Along with being a riveting page-turner the author explores tough questions that have no easy answers. 

The book opens with an explosion in a hyperbaric chamber, the so-called “Miracle Submarine”, a medical treatment used in the hope of a cure for conditions ranging from autism to infertility. The resulting fire took the life of two people: an 8-year-old boy with autism, and the young mother of one of the patients. Several others were left with devastating injuries. 

Elizabeth, the mother of the young boy who died, is charged with wanting her son dead and orchestrating his murder.  Is Elizabeth guilty, or, as the defense suggests, is someone else the guilty party? Told from alternating perspectives, there are little lies, big lies, and lies of omission. Everybody is hiding something and everyone has a possible motive for the crime.

The courtroom drama was riveting. Depending on which piece of evidence is explored, the suspicion leans strongly toward one person or another. No one has the full picture but each reveal draws us closer to the truth and keeps the reader guessing. 

I think one of the strengths of this book is allowing the reader a peek into the minds and hearts of  parents of disabled children.  Parenting is a tough job, even more so when faced with the overwhelming exhaustion, grief, and fear of parenting a child with special needs, and the worry of what will happen to your child when they outlive you. The dynamics of the group of mothers who  have children with varying degrees of autism was especially interesting. 

Despite a great love for your child, shameful, but all-too-human, thoughts can creep in.  Thoughts that could never be voiced out loud to anyone. I hope this book gives parents in similar circumstances reassurance and validation that they aren’t awful people, just flawed humans. Like all of us. 

The immigrant experience is also explored, specifically the clashes between the old ways and the new, and the sacrifices immigrant parents make for their children, which don’t always lead to the expected outcome. 

The author is Korean-American, a trial lawyer, and has a child who received hyperbaric treatments for a health condition. She writes with authenticity based on personal experience. This is an amazing debut and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

Highly recommended for fans of thoughtful character-driven mystery/courtroom dramas. 

I read this with Marialyce and we had a great discussion. For those in a book club this would be an excellent pick. 

**I received a free copy of the book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Marialyce’s review

As a parent, you would do anything to make life and its many pitfalls easier for your child. You would go to any lengths to guarantee their safety, happiness, and always be there to provide a cushion to the ills of the world your child is traveling through. However for a parent of a handicapped child, this road they must travel is so often fraught with frustration, pain, and the incredible loss of concern for self. It’s a time of never resting, never sleeping well, always on guard for the next disaster, the next time of unhappiness, the next case of looking for cures that can allay the situation and offer the hope of making your child normal.

So it is not that surprising that the parents of severely handicapped children have come to the facility run by Young and Pak Yoo. This miracle submarine as they call ii, is a hyperbolic chamber that offers remedies for autism, infertility and other maladies. It seems to be somewhat successful but tragedy is on approach and as the submarine once known as a miracle becomes a nightmare, killing two people. The Yoo’s life is thrown into turmoil and the lives of the parents who are left behind becomes one of recriminations and guilt. A trial ensues in which one parent, Elizabeth, is accused of setting this disaster in motion and being the cause of the explosion that killed two people, one of whom was her son.

The strength of this book comes from the true picture that is painted of parents who struggle with their children who are disabled. It so well portrays the road that these people travel, one often filled with frustration, anger, and of course hope. It allowed for feelings of hate, hate for the cards dealt to them and the children who made their lives ever so difficult. It showed true human emotion, not always kind or loving, but exhausted, sleepless, and embarrassed.

Everyone in this story is lying, lying to protect their assets, lying to protect their marriage, lying to deny their part in a scenario that was both tragic and fated. It is a story of deceit, a story of tragedy, a story of how far a parent will go to make their child normal.

Jan and I read this book together and came away with a keen understanding of the pitfalls one often falls into in their zeal to make their offspring perfect, to fit a norm, to be normal.

Thank you to Angie Kim, Farrar Straus and Giroux for a copy of this story.

and here’s the author

Angie Kim moved as a preteen from Seoul, South Korea, to the suburbs of Baltimore. She attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then practiced as a trial lawyer at Williams & Connolly. Her stories have won the Glamour Essay Contest and the Wabash Prize in Fiction, and appeared in numerous publications including Vogue, The New York Times, Salon, Slate, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, The Asian American Literary Review, and PANK. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three sons. MIRACLE CREEK is her first novel.

The Girl He Used to Know @tgravisgraves @StMartinsPress #autism #friendship #love #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

There are times when a book makes everything you love about reading come together in a short two hundred and ninety-one pages. There are times when you get to see the good in others and relish every page of a story that made you ever so glad you picked it up. This was such a book. We happily give this story all the stars in the sky and you can throw in the sun, planets, and the moon too! Yes, it was that good.

The Girl He Used to Know
“Sometimes it’s important to let the people we care about know that a single incident doesn’t have to define them”

Jan’s review

5 stars! If you are looking for the perfect summer read, look no further. This is it.

Right from the start I fell in love with Annika. How could I not love a woman who says “I want to work at a library someday….I want to spend every waking day of my adult life surrounded by books.”  A girl who carries around a book of Elanor Roosevelt quotes? Her favorite: ‘A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” And Jonathan…well,  he is the perfect boyfriend we all wished we had met in college, but instead met only the jerks. 

Annika and Jonathan fell in love while in college, but something broke them apart after  graduation. A chance encounter 10 years later rekindles the flame, but there are issues. From here, the short chapters that alternated between Then and Now kept me furiously flipping the pages.  And that is all I will say about the plot as it’s best to go into this blindly. 

However,  I can’t end this review without saying something about the characters, because they are delightful. Annika is a high-functioning woman on the spectrum and I loved how she was portrayed. The author presents her in such a way that I understood her way of thinking, and I loved her for it. My heart broke for her when she struggled and was the victim of hateful comments and bullying. 

Jonathan is Annika’s strongest supporter, along with her best friend Janice. These two help Annika navigate an often confusing world. But perhaps they helped her a bit too much and Annika needed to learn how to navigate the world on her own.

No spoilers, but I will say that after I learned what happened to break Jonathan and Annika apart (which you will either love or hate), I loved the direction the author took Annika’s character. How 10 years later she was no longer ‘the girl he used to know’. 

This is a beautiful love story, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of how some people struggle with social norms. It’s a reminder to not judge and be kind, always. It’s a story about love, friendship, and rising above adversity.

Recommended for everyone because I loved it so. But this will especially appeal to those who love a character-driven story that falls into the category of lighter fiction with depth. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is for romance readers only. 

I read this as a buddy read with my friend Marialyce, and we both loved it. Annika touched my heart and she will stay with me a long while. This book will surely be on our 2019 favorites list.

Marialyce’s review

How could you not love a book that allows you to crawl into the mind and heart of its main character? You feel the pain, the sorrow, the hope, and the need to fit in so much that you yourself become that character. That’s exactly what you find reading about Annika, a most delightful character and her struggles with what we now know is autism.

If you know someone, and who doesn’t, who is autistic, you probably are aware of the difficulties that person has trying to find their place in a world that often seems hostile and unforgiving. For Annika her struggles are apparent, no friends, being thought of as strange, and sadly being taken advantage of. She retreats, insulates herself from hurt and decides to surround herself with what she loves, books.


Life takes a turn as she heads to college working on independence and meeting two of the most wonderful characters ever to grace a story. Jonathan the man who comes to love her, and her friend and roommate, Janice. Jonathan and Annika are thrown together at a chess club. She is reluctant to participate, to branch out,  but there is something that Jonathan sees and eventually loves about Annika. He draws her out of the shell she has created for herself and ultimately falls in love with her and she with him.

Sounds like a perfect story but there not silver linings in Annika’s story, and so Annika and Jonathan separate. It’s sad and tragic but Annika has strength that she is discovering and that strength is the strength of self. “The constant vigilance and my heightened anxiety that I’d screw it up anyway exhausted me, but I persevered.”

Ten years later fate intervenes and offers Annika another chance for happiness if she is willing to grab that gold ring. Jonathan is back and as they reconnect he wonders is Annika still the girl he used to know or is she something even more wonderful?

I absolutely am over the top in love with this story. I so appreciated the author’s wonderful effort in taking on the topic of autism in such a touching and sensitive manner. This is how you portray the autistic spectrum with eyes focused on the beauty of life, love, and friendship that is open to all even if you are different.

Don’t miss this amazing story. It will warm your heart and make you come to the understanding that to be different is often a wonderful thing to be.

Jan and I loved this story. It made us feel all those wonderful emotions that a talented author can make you feel. We were both sad though, and that sadness was because this beautiful story had come to an end.

and here’s the author:

Tracey Garvis Graves is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into thirty-one languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You,Cherish, Heart-Shaped Hack, White-Hot Hack, and The Girl He Used to Know. She is hard at work on her next book.

Inheritance @danijshapiro @randomhouse #geneology, #paternity #jewishfamily #fictionfriends #duoreviews #audiblebooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

Most of us think we know about those in our family who came before us. There may be an occasional surprise, but on the whole we are pretty confident who our parents are. Imagine if you found out that what you thought all along was not true. Would your world be rocked and those things you thought were so ingrained in yourself, be shaken?

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love
“There is in each of us a fundamental split between what we think we know and what we know but may never be able to think.”

Jan’s review

Many people participate in DNA testing as a lark, never anticipating the results will rock them to their core and make them question their entire life.  This is what happened to the author when she finds out that her Orthodox Jewish father was not her biological father, and the ancestors and relatives who gave her such a strong sense of family and identity were not her blood relatives.

The author beautifully articulates her inner struggles with identity and what her parents, the ones who raised her and are now deceased, knew. She explores the ethics and the conundrum of sperm donation and artificial insemination. She examines her upbringing, her parent’s marriage and her relationship with them, the search for her biological father and what happens when contact is attempted.

I admit that when I first heard of this book my first thought was that it didn’t sound all that interesting but after hearing so many glowing reviews I decided to give it a try. It’s a testament to the skill of the author that it was not just interesting, it was enthralling. I was completely captivated from start to finish, and listened to it in one day. Her narration is impeccable, and listening to her tell her own story made it all the more poignant. 

Through her exhaustive research, unraveling of the mystery, and her introspective musings, the author eventually achieves a certain level of peace with this new knowledge. How she gets there makes for  a compelling and addictive read. 

This was a fantastic buddy read with my friend Marialyce, and one we both highly recommend!

Marialyce’s review

For Dani Shapiro life was good. She had a successful career, a loving husband, a solid belief in her Jewishness, and a son who at the age of seventeen seemed headed down the road to success as well. She had always felt a bit uneasy about her looks being blonde and having blue eyes. There were always those comments like “Gee, you don’t look Jewish or even once when a relative commented that they could have used her in the camps because of her looks to get extra bread. As a lark, Dani and her husband take a test offered by Ancestry that millions of others have taken. Spit into a test tube and a few weeks later find out more about your roots. But for Dani, when the results come back, it is mind blowing. They had to be wrong, she was totally Jewish, she spoke Hebrew, kept a Kosher household, and yet while she was fifty percent Jewish, she is also a combination of other nationalities. How could this be? There had to be a mistake, but after checking, there was no mistake. What it meant was that her beloved father was not really her father and out there somewhere was a man who was her biological father.

As Dani comes to grips with the information, she embarks on a journey to find her biological father, using initially a clue provided by Ancestry. Through searches, questions to relatives who were still alive, Dani traces her father. How will he react now that he has a family of his own? How will Dani comes to terms with the fact that she is a “test tube” baby, she has half siblings, and all that she held most dear is crumbling around her?

This was an absolutely fascinating story, one that ensnared me from the start, and compelled me to listen to the story from start to finish in a day. This is a story that could be our story, one now with the ability to trace one’s ancestry, that could upend all we thought we are and what we thought we knew.

Thank you to Dani Shapiro for taking Jan and I on this most intriguing journey. We both highly recommend this story for all the feelings expressed and love that was shown. We both listened to this on audio and Dani did a marvelous job narrating her story. It truly touched our hearts. Definitely highly recommended “What makes a person a person? What combination of memory, history, imagination, experience, subjectivity, genetic substance, and that ineffable thing called the soul makes us who we are?

and here’s the author:

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Her latest memoir, Inheritance, will be published by Knopf in January, 2019.

Southern Lady Code @Helen_Ellis @doubledaybooks #southernladies #humor #essays #fictionfriends #duoreviews @EdelweissByAbovetheTreeline @JanBelisle @absltmom

Jan and I were looking for something, fun, something frivolous, something quick, and something that would possibly makes us lol. We picked up Southern Lady Code with the hopes it would fit the bill.

Southern Lady Code
“If you don’t know what to do with the rest of your life, make your bed. If you’re going to be a couch potato, at least fluff the pillows. If you can’t afford pearls, red nail polish is your best accessory. If you don’t have time to do your nails, smile and stand up straight.”

Jan’s review

Southern Lady Code: “If you don’t have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way.”

After a couple of books that were misses,  Marialyce and I decided to go a different route and read a book of humorous essays. We were ready for some laughs.

At 224 pages this is a quick, easy read, perfect as a palate cleanser. Helen Ellis is witty and snarky and delivers more than a few lines that made me chuckle out loud. Other essays were misses, but overall I would recommend it as a good book to toss in the beach bag.

*many thanks to Edelweiss, Doubleday, and the author for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Marialyce’s review

This was a fun easy read, just a couple of hours of stories that were suppose to inform Southern ladies about the way they act, which of course is always the correct way. Being a transported Southern lady, I was anxious to see what I needed to do to be part and parcel of the Southern Lady culture. Along the way, I picked up a few pointers, chuckled a few times, and pretty much liked the essays presented.

You can’t be a Southern lady though without the term “Bless your heart” a phrase that has more meaning and innuendo then I ever imagined. Sadly though it was missing in these essays, but that being said the bits and pieces we learn about Southern ladies was cute and full of whimsy. While some of the essays made me chuckle, there were some that seemed to fall a bit on the not so funny side for this Southern lady. However, on the whole this collection is a good way to while away one’s time on the beach or traveling.

Jan and I read this one and are interested in looking into this author’s other stories. Recommended to those who long for a book that has short bits and pieces of a culture many of us embrace as our own.

Thank you to Helen Ellis, Doubleday Books and Edelweiss for a copy of this book which is publishing today!

and here’s the author:

HELEN ELLIS is the author of American Housewife and Eating the Cheshire Cat.Raised in Alabama, she lives with her husband in New York City.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story #annrule #tedbundy #serialkiller #truecrime @SimonAudio @absltmom

Mention the name Ted Bundy, google his name, and you will find a plethora of information on this man, one of the most famous of serial killers ever to roam this earth. He was a man who was ever so handsome, a man who could twist and and manipulate, a man who killed wantonly without a thought or a regret as to what his crime was doing not only to his victims but also to the families who were left behind.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story
“Yet, in reality, Ted loved things more than he loved people. He could find life in an abandoned bicycle or an old car, and feel a kind of compassion for these inanimate objects, more compassion than he could ever feel for another human being.”


In the book, The Stranger Beside Me, the author Ann Rule, gives the reader an extremely through and detailed account of her interaction with Ted Bundy. Ann had been on assignment pulling together stories about a killer trying to follow his trail across the many states where death had followed when the unbelievable happened.


Unbeknownst to Ann, the killer was someone she knew, someone she liked, someone who meant something to her. Ann had become friends with Ted Bundy while they had worked together at a suicide prevention center. She was drawn to him, there was something so charismatic about Ted that she never lost contact with him and as the clues seemed to point more and more in Ted’s direction for the bludgeoning, rape and sodomy of so many women, she came to the realization that her friend, a friend she so treasured, could possibly be a serial killer. She finds it hard to believe and as she becomes more involved with the proceedings, she has times of thinking that Ted could not possibly be the man who committed these heinous crimes. Literally, Ann had fallen under the Bundy spell.


As Ted is brought to justice, recaptured after making two successful jail escapes, Ann still grapples with his guilt. One had to wonder if she was just so sure of her assessment of her friend or was there something else that lurked below the surface for Ann? Even as all points to Ted’s guilt, there is that urge to fight for him, so that he might escape the fate that was decided for him after his trial.
This story was chilling, as one sees so many fall like dominoes to Ted’s charm. He was so able to weave a spell around so many even to the point of marrying a woman while in jail and producing a daughter. It is a story of horror, a story of fear, a story of a weird and dangerous friendship that at least to this reader seemed unnatural.


I listened to the audio version of this book, a long eighteen hour trip into depravity. We can always make excuses for abhorrent behavior and yet there are thirty women, (although Ted said once to add a zero onto the end of that number) who are no longer alive today who were lost at the hands of an evil monster. I often wanted to hear of empathy for the victims and their families and yet, of course this was Ted’s story and the story of what I consider a very bizarre and abhorrent friendship.


Recommended to those who find the subject of sociopaths interesting as they lay bare all the ways in which some can be malevolent and evil, and yet engender the love and care of quite a few people.

and here’s the author:

Ann Rule was a popular American true crime writer. Raised in a law enforcement and criminal justice system environment, she grew up wanting to work in law enforcement herself. She was a former Seattle Policewoman and was well educated in psychology and criminology.

She came to prominence with her first book, The Stranger Beside Me, about the Ted Bundy murders. At the time she started researching the book, the murders were still unsolved. In the course of time, it became clear that the killer was Bundy, her friend and her colleague as a trained volunteer on the suicide hotline at the Seattle, Washington Crisis Clinic, giving her a unique distinction among true crime writers.

Ann Rule passed away in 2016 at the age of eighty-three.

Why is Ted Bundy Suddenly Everywhere?
Bundy’s body was cremated in Gainesville, and no public ceremony was held. Before he was executed he requested his ashes be scattered in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, where he murdered at least four of his victims.
TED BUNDY Crime scene pictures, Very strong pictures - YouTube
Theodore Robert Bundy was one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history who confessed to kidnapping, raping and murdering 30 women throughout seven states during the 1970s. From the time of his capture, up until his death in the electric chair became imminent, he proclaimed his innocence and then began confessing to some of his crimes to delay his execution. The actual count of how many people he murdered remains a mystery.
Who Was Ted Bundy and What Did He Do | Dark Dreams | The ...
Ted Bundy was executed in 1989. He was executed by the use of the electric chair in Florida. He had been tried three times and was 42 at the time of his death.