Something in the Water (book review)

I recently read Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman. This was one of Reece Witherspoon’s book club picks, and I found a copy at our local library. It sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a read.

The synopsis:

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

The book started strong and hooked me from the first page. It was interesting, suspenseful, and had some surprises. Good storyline and an easy read (this would be a good beach read).

I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars though, mostly because I found the characters to be difficult to relate to – or, if I’m honest, to like.

Still, I recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a fun, thrilling, suspenseful read. You don’t have to like the characters to enjoy a book, but it helps.

Book Review: Dark Circles

I received an advance reader copy of Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach, and spent this stormy day happily immersed in this book.

The Description: An embattled actress becomes entangled in a dark conspiracy at a spiritual retreat—and starts a true crime podcast to try to break the case—in this chilling novel about fame, violence, and our morbid fascination with murder, from the acclaimed author of Dead Letters.

Olivia Reed needs a break. She doesn’t want to think about her name plastered on tabloids or be reminded of her recent meltdown on a Manhattan street. Her micromanaging publicist has just the thing in mind: a remote retreat in upstate New York—the House of Light. It’s not rehab; it’s a Spiritual Center, a site for seeking realignment and personal growth. There will be yoga and morning meditation, soft bamboo-blend fabrics and no shortage of crystals to cleanse her energy.

But Liv will soon find that the House of Light is filled with darkness. A prickly local, Ava, informs her that something twisted is lurking behind the Light’s veneer. There have been a series of mysterious suicides committed by women caught in the Light’s web, and no matter who Ava talks to, no one believes the Center is involved. To find out what’s really happened and put her celebrity to good use, Liv starts a podcast, seeking to connect the dots and expose the Light’s true intentions. Because beneath the glowing skin of the Light’s inhabitants lie rotten souls, and Liv starts to wonder if anything—even her own life—is how it appears.

Oh my…this was so good…5 stars from me!

I was hooked from the first page, completely drawn into the story. There are twists and turns, and surprises and shocks. It is very well written…and (importantly) it is easy to read. The mystery is so compelling that I found it difficult to put the book down, even for a few minutes.

A huge thank you to Caite Dolan-Leach, Random House Publishing, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley. Dark Circles will be out 4/19/22 – soon!

Book Review: Steeped to Death

I was given an advance reader copy of Steeped to Death by Gretchen Rue. It was a fun, easy read. When Phoebe Winchester’s aunt Eudora passes away and leaves everything to her niece—her Victorian mansion, her bookshop/tea store, The Earl’s Study, and one very chubby orange cat named Bob—Phoebe gets more than she bargained for. When a dead man is found on the shop’s back step, apparently killed while trying to break in, Phoebe investigates. 

I really enjoyed the story (mystery, romance, and even a bit of magic!) and found it quite engrossing. Phoebe is a very likable character and I found myself rooting for her. The book made me crave a good cup of tea (perhaps sitting by a cozy fire with an orange cat sitting in my lap) and the recipes at the end were a fun surprise.

My only complaint, and the reason I only give the book 4 stars rather than 5, is the editorial errors peppered throughout; typos, and a few grammatical errors. Not many, but enough to distract from the story.

Overall, I recommend Steeped to Death (publication date 9/6/22). Ms. Rue has created an engaging character in Phoebe and a delightful ambiance in the tea shop and bookstore.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the ARC.

Books, projects, and other pandemic stuff

I’ve been a bad blogger. In my defense, however, there’s been a pandemic and life seems to have just slowed down. A lot.

While we’ve been staying home, we’ve done a lot of projects around the house. I’ve been painting and refinishing furniture, rearranging the house, painting walls, etc. I’ve started doing needlepoint and cross stitch again. We got a dog. And I’ve been doing a lot of reading.

The Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian was one of the books I read. It was recommended by a friend, and since I’d also read one of his previous books, The Flight Attendant, I decided to read this too. I loved it.

Of course, I love historical fiction and learning about something while enjoying a fun read. This was perfect. I found myself searching things that were mentioned in the book (spider), people from the era (1662) etc.

I also found myself talking to the main character, Mary, in the book. well, that’s not really accurate. I found myself scolding Mary, gasping out loud when she did something I thought was stupid. I was immersed in the story, angry on her behalf, and shocked by events that happened.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but it’s set during the time of the Salem Witch Trials. And… no, I’m going to stop there. It’s really good. The story will suck you in and you’ll keep thinking about Mary and all of the other characters.

Go get The Hour of the Witch. And if you enjoy it, get The Flight Attendant too (also really good!)

A Chilly Graduation Trip

Back at the end of January and beginning of February Paige and I took a quick trip over to Edinburgh for a few days. Paige has always wanted to go, particularly because of all the Harry Potter related landmarks around the city, and since we were able to get on the flights and found a wonderful, historical Airbnb right in the Grassmarket by the castle…it seemed like a great, albeit really, really cold, time to go!

After arriving, we bundled up and hiked up to check out Edinburgh Castle. Then we wandered around Victoria Street (which was literally only about a 5 minute walk from our flat). Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books…and we look wandering around the cute shops.

We also found Elephant House, and Spoon, where J. K. Rowling wrote the first few Harry Potter books…

Right there by Elephant House, in the same neighborhood, is the George Herriot School and Greyfriars Kirkyard. J. K. Rowling could see the Herriot School from Elephant House as she was writing, and it was the inspiration for Hogwarts. She would frequently take breaks and walk through Greyfriars, which also provided inspiration in the form of some familiar names….

We took a day trip to Stirling one day, and wandered around the town and toured the castle…

We also did a history-comedy-walking tour of Edinburgh…which was fantastic!

And finally, we toured Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Abbey. We walked around the Scott Monument, we traversed the Royal Mile, and explored Mary Kings Close. We shivered a lot, it’s true (we’re Florida girls!) but we loved every minute of our chilly Scottish, Harry Potter adventure!

Wilderness Explorer

In January Clay left for Orlando to begin his professional internship with The Disney Company, working at Animal Kingdom as a “conservation education presenter,” or as they’re more commonly known, a Wilderness Explorer!

First he had to undergo a couple of weeks of training, learning everything from Disney’s policies and procedures to minutiae about the park and the animals. He’s made a lot of friends, loves his job, and really enjoys interacting with the guests and trying to make a difference in their day and, hopefully, educate them at the same time.

She Did It!

After three and half years of late nights, too many hours spent in the library (and Starbucks!), and lots and lots of papers (on terrorism, and Pol Pot, and lots written in French on eighteenth century literature…and, sadly, even on existentialism)…

Paige graduated (early!) from Florida State University! Hip Hip Hooray!

(Tim and I are now the proud parents of TWO COLLEGE GRADUATES!) 🎉🎊

CONGRATULATIONS PAIGE!

When in Rome (part 2)

In part 1 of our Rome adventures, I briefly mentioned the hordes of tourists. I’ll mention them again, here. There were hordes of tourists in Rome. We did our best to avoid them, but it was time to take a deep breath and dive into the hordes. Because, when in Rome you have to…

Do the Coliseum…

And Roman Forum…

Rome, where you don’t take breaks on benches…but on toppled marble columns.

Circus Maximus

And Palatine Hill. (Only 30% of visitors to Rome visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill!)

The next day we really jumped into it. We went here…

We saw these guys…

And toured the Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel, where we were not allowed to take photos, but…😍)

(I must have a tiny bit of a “floor fetish” because every single place we went in Italy I was obsessed with the fabulous, amazing, mosaic tile floors!)

The mosaic tile floors were incredible

Those peacocks are 1,900 years old

Flemish tapestry showing the assassination of Julius Caesar

The giant pinecone is 2000 years old!

The crowds though, y’all. While the Sistine Chapel was absolutely breathtaking and astounding, the crowds and the body odor and the pushing and….ugh. We shuffled along in the mass exodus….shuffling…shuffling…and eventually made our way to St. Peter’s.

I’d love to show photos of the Pieta. I’m sure St. Peter’s is an amazing church.

But I’m sorry to say that we shuffled along in that huge body of odiferous tourists, and walked into St Peter’s…

I quickly snapped this photo, said, “yeah, yeah another church. This is freaking insane. Let’s get out of here.”

And we left.

And just like that, I was ALL OUT OF PATIENCE and I decided I DID NOT LIKE PEOPLE and OMG I HATE TOURISTS and WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS GET ME OUT OF HERE!

Then Tim fed me “lunch” (it was 4:30) and that helped, but I still am pretty much over tourists. I mean…really, y’all DON’T NEED TO PUSH!

Typical lunch for us- insalata!

On the way home that evening, we stopped off for a hot chocolate with a view!

Roman Holiday (part 1)

We arrived in Rome on a rainy, windy afternoon. After checking into our Airbnb apartment, we located the closest supermarket (right around the corner 😊) and stocked up on baguettes, coffee, and salami for the week. (Italian essentials!) And then we set out to explore…

Our apartment was only a block away from Piazza Navona, and a few minutes walk from Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon…

The next day the sun came back out and after a bit of investigation we realized that Largo di Torre Argentina was only 5 minutes away from our apartment. We had to go see where Julius Caesar was assassinated! (And also, we wanted to see “Caesar’s cats!” Torre Argentina)

We decided to adopt a cat!

This is Brutus (it seemed fitting- “et tu, Brute?”). He’s blind, and deaf…probably un-adoptable. 😢 We spent some time petting him (he purred and loved the attention, sweet boy) and then filled out the paperwork.

And we did a lot of walking. Just…walking. Exploring. We walked along the Tiber, and we found cute little alleyways to explore, and we just meandered and tried (as much as possible) to avoid to hordes of tourists…

Spoleto (1)

Walking the streets of Spoleto is a constant delight for a history lover such as myself. I drive Tim crazy by constantly stopping to take pictures of the lovely old doors…

…or the charming old fountains…

…or squeal when I see picturesque alleyways. And then we get distracted and wander down the alleyways, or stairways, just to see where they lead. (And often get lost!) That’s the charm of Spoleto.

But eventually you get where you’re heading…in our case, yesterday it was first to the Duomo.

I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t really excited about visiting another church. Let’s be real- we’ve seen a lot of churches at this point, right? But…holy cow. This church? Wow!

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo, is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. The Cathedral, which was apparently rebuilt at the end of the twelfth century, took the place of the ancient building of Santa Maria del Vescovato (8th-9th century), which had replaced a primitive Christian temple.

I don’t know how old the mosaic tile floors are…but they’re old. And they’re beautiful.

There is a magnificent fresco painted by Fillipo Lippi (he is also buried there.)

The Duomo also has a fragment of a letter written by St Francis of Assisi (!!!). It is kept in a reliquary of the church. It is actually only a fragment of a letter, written on goatskin, estimated to have been written around 1225 when St. Francis was nearly blind and suffering the effects of stigmata. It was written to Brother Leo, one of his earliest and closest followers. But STILL…Saint Francis!

Also, look at how the afternoon sunlight reflects the gold leaf on the fresco outside the church – isn’t that breathtaking?

We then took the amazing travelators to the top of the hill to see the Ponte delle Torri, an ancient Roman aqueduct which was rebuilt in the fourteenth century. It was a splendid day, with perfect weather and we enjoyed the walk immensely. The views were superb, and the leaves were just starting to turn…it was gorgeous.

We then climbed a bit further still to the Rocca Albornoziana or La Rocca, which was built in the fourteenth century as a residence of the Pope. It was designed as both a residence and a fortress. Lucrezia Borgia also apparently resided at La Rocca. From 1817-1962 it was used as a prison.

There are remnants of lovely frescoes remaining on the walls today.

Rocca Albornoziana